Four poems from Han Kook Mortuary (Doma
Press, Venice California, 2005)
A shadow is the Other. I bet you like it that
don’t you? Me, I tremble at the thought of it.
Those lapses in motion. The way it shutters when
you confront it up against the wall. That’s a game,
you know. Once your back is turned, a shadow spills
light all over your neck and shoulders till it looks
like you’re gleaming wet in the sun. And your shirt
sticks to your body. And people can barely look at you
without succumbing to pity. Light casts barriers between us all.
A man is searching for his
reflection in the windows
of a darkened store. What has gotten
into his mind? Something spun
in nervous threads from the inside out.
He exhales in fits. Finding no reflection
to look at he decides to write his own
into the glass as one would inscribe
madness into a book. A lichen drops leaves
on his shoulder as he writes. The sound
of scratching carries through the street
like howls evaporating into a valley.
In a dry night, such sounds will carry.
Instructions for Burying an Opossum
When you bury him, his eyelids will seem
tethered to the wind
and his body will shudder in the ground like a tongue beneath its
Make sure you also bury the fear that danced
inside him, tacit
step by tacit step.
He never hunted, instead he was always fleeing
the sky and the stars as they seemed, for him, ready to fall.
Fed on omens, he’ll be full and will lie
beneath the earth once it’s carefully spread over him.
This is to be his final sleep as a doll of the
dark mud dissolving
in his hole. He will stay there but you should stand by
until the mound settles and hardens, until the gleaming wind
that haunted his waking body skirts over the waste.
Nicodemus House, or The Boat Tips When You Get Carried
They caught me stealing.
There were no excuses. A joke was cracked,
and it was all over.
I went back over the streets, imagining that
would make them livable again.
I went to the Nicodemus House
and hid myself for nights and emptied
my shoes out of what they didn’t find
and hid that, too.
But in case the guilt never lets go,
and I keep my fingers wrapped
around this little awakened life,
and I don’t live for more than a day or two more,
my posthumous message will read:
“I am Tyler Williams.
The remainder of what I stole
breathes under a floorboard.
You’ll find the spot…
it’s the one scratched
on with a faint X”.
Tyler Williams is a Texas native, worked
at Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center in Venice, CA, for two years,
and is currently attending the University of California at Berkeley.
His poetic influences include the experimental or surrealist poets
Paul Celan, Thomas Tranströmer and Michael Palmer.
Four poems from Tracings (Finishing
A Reel Left Running
Fortunate poet, born in April, your receiving
blanket laid in tender grass, your cumulous
sculpted by a breeze. Many seasons
come and gone, you lie there, watch your story
told in clouds as if projected from a reel
rolling at warp speed, your past
condensed into this moment. Outcast.
If not for I wish you’d die so you would
learn how wrong you are, could you know
the souls of Nora, Karinina, Hester Prynne?
Sense how you and they are one?
Without the press of mores, good girl, chaste,
would you look into the eyes of the Muslim,
draped, waiting for a bus in Bel Air?
So long before you took up a pen, wrote pictures
you imagined then in liquid blue, the stories of others,
your own. Now age obscures images, pulled taffy,
whisked meringue, they melt, struggle to be named.
So much there is to say, your craft left idle for years,
tools lay fallow, and now, now there is so little time.
Earliest Remembered Sound
All the sound in the world sucked
to a wavering, wailing note
I perch on my father’s knee,
afraid, look through our window
Utah’s lights snuff, quickly, quickly,
silver sequins turn dark
until the skyline disappears |
against deep velvet. There,
among our overstuffed chairs
doilies protect fat rolled arms.
The siren whines to silence.
What could that have been?
Oh, nothing, an air raid
my mother answers
as if her words were lyrics
she wanted to forget.
Would the lights return
charged with that sound that split
my father’s hand from mine.
Father wears a cunt cap, grosgrain ribbons
across his heart; smells of gabardine
and good-byes. His eyelids twitch
Mother, once again, says
Oh, probably nothing at all.
A corpse the color of bark,
as if it materialized
on my carpet in morning light.
I stoop, like a toddler,
knees to my chin,
expect to see its antenna
(only one) fragile
as silk, reach to touch
its open wings,
anticipate how they will dissolve
into powder on my fingertips.
Up close, a changeling.
Now the shadow of a flower,
a transparent husk
so delicate I am surprised
it survived the gust
that brought it. A pattern
repeated in nature,
hinged shells, paired seeds.
Tracings. Echoes. Deeds done
and undone, transformed
existence, loved ones here and gone.