M L Williams – Ramadan Christmas

Profile M L Williams Live Encounters Poetry & Writing 8th Anniversary December 2017

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Ramadan Christmas, poems by M L Williams

M. L. Williams is author of Other Medicines and co-editor of How Much Earth: The Fresno Poets. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in many journals and anthologies, including most recently Western Humanities ReviewMiramarThe Journal of Florida StudiesThe Cortland ReviewStone, River, Sky, and Clash by Night. He teaches creative writing and contemporary literature at Valdosta State University.

Ramadan Christmas 1999, Chicago

After sundown, the Hyatt would teem
with dark-haired children attending a conference
for Muslim teens, tired of fasting all day,
tired of activities and meetings and panels.
I’d lunched on the Christmas buffet alone,
early for my conference, away from home,
from anyone I knew, first time in Chicago,
first time for deep dish in a dive, the cook
arguing on the phone, the crust a perfect
gold wreath around the sauce and cheese,
first time at the Art Institute, Joseph Cornell
boxes and their perfect gatherings
of dust, feathers, screens, odd objects, Michigan
and Wacker, Lakeshore, shopping, and each night after
exploring, I’d go to the bar for a glass of wine,
talk to Dana, the bartender, about my hopes,
my interviews, watch the kids patrol
the hotel for food and fun, remember the man
in front of his car parked on an empty bypass
road, knees on his carpet, bowed in sajdah
in the bitter cold as I walked quietly past,
Holy Ramadan, Holy Christmas, peace.

Slipping Away

You speak of the cistern
that collected the rain,
house full, brothers,
sisters all there, picking
cotton for a share
of the crop in Deport—
the good times, you say,
everyone together. Terrible
days, your mother said,
brutal work picking
bolls with a baby
in swaddling.
But they were all alive,
house full of voices
and you slip
back, visit, and,
though you’re right
in front of me,
I miss you.

Nor Spanish Nor Moss

beard bromeliad
white fall
of city oaks
down canopy roads

ghost silver winters
on swamp cypresses
black water
mirrors and mist
unsettling vultures

what wires tangle
what your tiny bell
flowers have seen
and rung out


Then are two things the same when they are what one thing is?
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, 215

The indefatigable
silence this desert road
trip window cranked
arm resting bent
there they had wind
wings for cigarettes
oceans rising in the hot
distance vanishing
like radio stations
thrum of this slow
going and being
here chrome
and vinyl glance
and sigh

© M L Williams