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Four Poems by Carol Clark Williams

Updated: Jan 1, 2020

Poem like a Quilt

She writes the word “stone".

It becomes a weight

seamed with quartz stitches

to catch any glinting light,

writes “field” and it spreads

a square patch of bowed wheat grass

tacked down with thistles

and French-knot dandelions.

She writes “wind.” Dust devils

spin up funnels in the field,

the grass shivers and smoothes

its green threads down.

She sets down “rock"; pauses,

considering where to place it.

It submerges in sudden current,

embroidered water patterns.

Sighing, she shuts her notebook.

Between frayed covers, water splashes,

seeds twist, release, and scatter, running

stitches across the wind-ironed field.

Instead of Finding Romance

I want to wear a cotton jacket,

patchwork of denim and royal blue,

age-bleached cuffs rolled back.

I want to be bowed, broad-shouldered, square;

walk out to meet the morning with garden shears,

stomp the sparse grass in worn brogans.

I want to be the town character,

one who causes people to half-smile

when the neighbors discuss me.

I want to putter in the yard,

set out a painted trellis, grow bitter grapes,

chain a big yellow mutt to the arch  post

on sunny days: bring him in at night,

fling a plush rug across my bed

for him to stretch out on.

I want to sleep hard, my grizzled head

against his massive one; want to dream

of dancing to the rhythm of his breath—

dream that I am lithe, light-footed,

sailing and twirling like a maple seed,

pliant as wheat grass in October wind.

The Lost Works

Beethoven wakens to a tune

cruising through the cathedral dome

of his massive brow. He dons

his dapper vest, buttons straining.

As usual, he cannot find his comb;

rings for the chambermaid, but none

appears. "Deaf as a post," he mutters,

and sits at his writing desk

to transcribe what he hears internally

into symbols that his peers can play.

The constant buzzing in his inner ear

rises and falls: below it thrums the pulse

of his next opus, heartbeat of his soul.

All the while, what would be

darkness if he were going blind

grows in a leaden cloud about his brain.

Notes become muffled, conversations muddled.

He saws down his piano's legs better to feel

vibrations through the floor into his skull.

In Vienna, Caroline's delicate fingers

turn him to face the audience's applause.

The orchestra is finished: measures behind them

he leaps and crouches, his body a lightning rod

conducting the brilliance of his creation,

too rapt to know that at his back there are

hands clapping, wildly waving handkerchiefs.

The music in his mind goes on, all unaware,

a different coda than his patrons hear.

And who will ever know what the staff

of quarter and half notes sounds like

inside that echoing head? The opus

performed at Theater an der Wien

is magnificent, the score interpreted

as written, but even Beethoven cannot be sure

the symphony soars in his intended harmonies,

sonata, scherzo, adagio—homage to God,

the only other listener who shares

the music inside Ludwig's ringing ears.


Until today

I never realized

I have been looking

for you in

every delicate girl

with sun-streaked hair

and pale blue eyes.

You left

without explanation,

a mystery unresolved:

why I still search

the faces of strangers,

rehearse the closing words

I meant to say.

Friendships finished,

others have drifted away:

"Let's do lunch"

the common punch line.

Your memories linger;

you were a mermaid,

slippery with secrets.

A friend of mine

captured you,

cast his net carefully

and brought you in,

but not for long.

Humans expect substance,

mermaids are sea foam.

Today I reached toward

a stranger's shoulder blade,

your name behind my lips;

caught myself,

wondering if you still walk

like an arcane myth

on this dry, prosaic land.


Carol Clark Williams is poet laureate emeritus of York, Pennsylvania and a rostered artist for the Arts in Education StART Something. She teaches poetry workshops in schools, libraries, prisons, and halfway houses. Williams recently received the Above and Beyond award from the National Federation of State Poetry Societies for her work with young people. Carol’s poems have been published in print and online journals including Mad Poets Review, Margie, Byline, Passager, Fledgling Rag, and Manorborn, the Water Issue. She has authored two poetry books: Escaped Without Injury and Stories of the Tribe.

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