M L Williams – Late Thunderstorm

P ML Williams LE P&W Vol 2 2019

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Poems by M L Williams

M L Williams is the author of Other Medicines and coeditor of How Much Earth: The Fresno Poets. His poetry and prose has appeared or is forthcoming in many journals and anthologies, including Miramar, Western Humanities Review, The Journal of Florida Studies, The Cortland Review, Stone, River, Sky, and Clash by Night. He co-emcees the Poetry Corner for the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and teaches creative writing and contemporary literature at Valdosta State University.

Late Thunderstorm

One is inclined to say: “Either it is raining, or it isn’t—how I know,
how the information has reached me, is another matter.”
—Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, 356

The light remains steady
despite all this. The fan
winds its rotation of shadows
across the planked ceiling.

The darkened double panes
reflect the light above,
doubled, and I am a blur
of two across the room.

Night enters through
lightning strikes, then
thunder, and the rain
gathered in a stream

falls from the roof valley
and clatters against the brick
that I want to say I know
is outside, but you never

know in the philosophy
of rain unless you run
through it toward a small
awning under a lamp

to wait it out, to feel
the cool damp against
the stucco wall until
the pavement steams.

3:00 AM Song

Night forgets
its promise
to darken.
A star, a full
moon flaring
in a cloud,
a lamp
in a window,
all distant suns
still bright
enough to trick
a moth or stir
a mockingbird
to mock
in song


In memory of Richard Beban
Can we choose one at pleasure? (The Egyptian, for instance.)
—Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations pt. 2, XII

Tannin-darkened water shimmers wiregrass
and reed blades mirroring down beside the groaning
walkway out to the viewing tower. Pitcher
plants yawn. Spanish moss laces tupelo
and cypress stands, knees pushing
into knurled islands. And damselflies hover
in the heat and green anoles rush along the handrails.

Most come to see an alligator, but you’re
here for birds—warblers, towhees, great
herons, scarlet tanagers—that you hope to see
over the dark waters. You point and make
the swamp alive for me with names, then stop
quiet and point at a white figure in the near distance
dipping into the dark, lifting with its curled neck
a head with a long, down-curved orange beak.
“Is that an ibis? I’ve never seen one in the wild!”
and you marvel at its hieroglyphic grace, its long
slow step, the way it writes on the wet black page.


One did not see before what is now in focus.
—Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, 645

Sun on the water shatters
to its spray of gold, a face
beneath, my son’s, my daughter’s now
a moon at night a shining
the current can’t carry away,
no dawn to awaken them.

That my own brother did this.
There can be no time but this
pacing the bank, tearing my hair,
cursing this evil, unable
to stop looking for light
in their wet, open eyes.

Intrasocial Disunity in Neoliberal Economies

It is easier to get at a feeling of unfamiliarity and of unnaturalness.
—Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, 596

You’re somewhere else, an old woman riding one of those electric shopping carts admonishes the cashier—young, exhausted in her green smock—waiting for APPROVED to appear on the small screen. Yes, I am. We wait together for APPROVED on the small screen, me beside my assembled groceries on the conveyor—milk if you must know, celery, bananas, ground organic turkey. Care to say where you really are? Smiling.  I will remember to ask for paper not plastic this time. She is tired she says no she hands the receipt to the woman who is still waiting I don’t. Smiles back thinly.  This is when I notice how weary she is, her red-rimmed eyes. Oh, and organic garlic. This is when the bagger arranges the bouquet of the woman’s plastic bags in the basket who is APPROVED and disappointed not to know where the cashier in her mind is. Lacuna with its press of unsavory conflicts romances profligacies interest-rate inflected anxieties pending diagnosis need to step outside for a smoke wherever she both is and is not. Cat who wants the lid shut tight to stay half alive. Oh, she puts slowly her card in her purse looking at the young woman who looks to me as the disappointed old woman rides away toward the hot parking lot. A single Canadian goose rests there on a pile of grass in the landscaping of a median. Did you find everything you need? Yes I say Yes thank you. 

© M L Williams