“Set One,” Poems by Day Williams

Wake Up, Sleepyhead

Sunlight streaks across your bed
Wake up, wake up, sleepyhead
The rooster crows, the horse is fed,
Wake up, wake up, sleepyhead

On the back porch the kittens mew
Wake up, wake up, sleepyhead
The grasses sip the morning dew
Wake up, wake up, sleepyhead

Fish are swimming in the pond
Wake up, wake up, sleepyhead
Grandpa stretches, Grandma yawns
Wake up, wake up, sleepyhead

The west wind whispers in the willows
Wake up, wake up, sleepyhead
Take your head off your pillow
Wake up, wake up, sleepyhead

Barn cats scout for mice to catch
Wake up, wake up, sleepyhead
Put on your pants with many patches
Wake up, wake up, sleepyhead

~Day Williams

 

Jehu, Ahab, and Jezebel

Jehu drives his chariot at a furious pace,
Ahab, scared, enters the battle in disguise,
Jezebel slathers makeup on her face.
On Ahab’s battlefield an arrow flies

To Ahab’s chest–he gasps his last breaths;
Jehu calls to eunuchs on the upper floor,
“Throw the wicked woman to her death!”
Dogs consume her, as prophesied before.

 

The Land of Never

Have you ever been so clever
You visited the Land of Never?
“Never will I eat the foods that make me fat,
Never will I say those awful words
Like Heckedy Schmekedy drat,”
Or in a moment of practiced pique
When your bottom’s fallen in the creek:
“Never ever will I do that again,
No horse could drag me through that glen,”
Or when your friend and you
have a falling out,
A spat where you cross your arms and shout,
“That’s it, never will I be your friend!
Never! Never! Never! The End!” . . .
But
it’s not the end,
now is it?
You’ll eat the pie despite the pounds and zits,
You’ll say some awful things
Because they have a righteous ring,
You’ll take that trip to somewhere far away,
Smiling as you wipe off spray,
You’ll call your friends
And make amends,
You’ll say, “Did I say ‘Never’”?
For me that’s far too clever.
Let’s take a walk
Around the block,
Pluck a dandelion on the fly,
Pick out Orion in the sky.
Whatever we may endeavor
Let’s steer clear
Of the Land of Never.”
***

Nevada to Jerusalem

(“His word is in my heart like a fire,
a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
indeed, I cannot.”–Jer. 20:9)

I.
This is a country for a holy man:
Deserts like Moses knew, Sierra snows
As white as souls wiped clean, and tourist bands
Who come to plug the emptiness in souls
By playing slot machines: in short, a land
Where Paul and Peter might have rivaled shows,
Teaching Christ crucified upon a tree,
To fill those voids with Gospel truth for free.

II.
A man of middle age cannot aspire
To a youngster’s speed, and plods along to court
To plead the cause of clients, rich and poor,
Sinners all. He’ll bring God a sad report
Unless his bones are burnt by holy fire,
And like a faithful witness he exhorts
Those who prefer to mock and toss the dice
Rather than seek a place in Paradise.

III.
Angels and demons fight an unseen war,
Hendrix replaces Bach, police patrols
Bust drunks and punks, and mourn the liquor store
And crankster’s needle, symptoms of a soul
So self-indulgent Conscience works no more,
A lethal weapon on remote control.
God calls for many, is answered by few,
And battles rage on every avenue.

IV.
When Bride and Bridegroom meet in air, foreknown,
God’s trumpet call will stun the West and East,
As he, the chosen precious cornerstone
Who built a nation of his royal priests,
Returns and claims the spotless Bride, his own,
To take her to the Lamb’s Great Wedding Feast
Prepared in heavenly Jerusalem
By him who was, and is, and is to come.

***

Ronald the Crankster

The needle slips inside the vein,
The tubing tight around
The arm, and Ronald feels a rush
That lifts him off the ground

Of the men’s bathroom stall at the hall
Where bowlers knock down pins.
The needle and the tubing go
Back in the pack. He grins

And springs out to the Reno street
To dumpster-dive and score
Once more in a parking lot
Near a casino floor.

“This is my change of lifestyle, cop,
I slam the speed and go
Outside to root in garbage, not
Like cranksters at the windows,

Listening to walls. I used to be
An alcoholic. . . . Why,
With all the tweakers round, stop me,
A long-time Reno guy?”

(1995)
***
Prayer

May God give wisdom to the leaders of the lands,
May they observe their vows and peace accords,
May men and women turn their hearts from selfishness
And serve the highest calling of the Lord.

May I pay creditors and live within my means,
May I be paid according to my worth,
May I bless others with poetic words of love
And works that fall like gentle rains on earth.

May holy leaders raise a standard clear and tall,
With righteousness to guide each citizen,
May God’s best candidates be number one in votes . . .
May this sad earth have peace, my countrymen.

***
Dewdrop

I was a dewdrop
On a green blade of grass
And I clung to that blade

All morning

Until the sun came out
And beat on me
And
I
Evaporated.
***
Blue Note

A French horn player on 32nd Street
Squeezed a note from his loins
and his guts and his heart,

Filched a note from the space
between the earth and the moon,

Caressed a note for a woman
with green eyes,

Smuggled a note from the tenements,
the smoke-filled bars
and the garbage-strewn streets,

a blue note

That soared up the skyscrapers’ bellies
And sauntered over a funeral procession
on Seventh Avenue,

a blue note

That glided over the college students
who lounged in the sun at Washington Square,
Spun round,

And drifted into the harbor,
Plunged into the ocean
and fell asleep.

(1986)

“Rainbow Melody”
By Day Williams

I Hurt My Friend

I hurt my friend

And can’t forget

My evil deeds . . .

I’m in his debt.

New York City

A prisoner who had forgotten chains,
Day wakened in another place, New York,
Discovered that his chains were tight, and fought
To free himself from demons’ teeth and nails.

Skyscrapers’ lights illuminated dusk
On Broadway, Times Square, and Fifth Avenue;
High heels of debutantes and office girls
Clicked like a Bushman’s speech; bag ladies picked
Through rubbish in a canister for cans
To peddle; taxis honked in traffic jams;
Electric billboards blinked and boasted wares;
The junkies jostled corporate lawyers’ wives
And friends who shopped at Saks Fifth Avenue
For blouses, skirts and dresses; models posed
By sculptures; traffic lights winked green and red;
The watchman for the three-card monte game
Whistled a warning to confederates;
Graffiti subway cars slid open doors,
Received the gangs, the clerks, the poets’ peers.

I Held Your Hand
I held your hand when your spirit was crushed
As though a truck had flattened your best dog;
I kept you warm during the night-time hush,
And when you entered swamps and had to slog

By roots and branches, treading carefully,
I caught you when you lost your balance, dear,
Kept you from falling in the muck to knees,
And when you made it through, I smiled and cheered.

When storms struck me and I was not so strong,
I could not see my way through fog and rain;
I stumbled like a blind man with no song
To lift his spirits from the doubt and pain,

And you dropped me like a stranger on the road
And never stopped to help me bear my load.