“MimiLou,” poem by Day Williams

MimiLou

Light bulbs talk back to MimiLou,
Who counts and skips the sidewalk cracks;
Her doctor is an alien
Who speaks in riddles with a knack.

She understands the sparrows’ songs,
Which she interprets for the ants;
The social worker recommends
She take a class in modern dance.

She pushes her grocery cart across
The street from parking lot to bench;
If somebody would hear her out
She’d teach them how to turn a wrench.

When winds blast loud and clouds grow dark
And raindrops herald coming storms,
The deputy can’t make her go
To the homeless shelter to stay warm.

“Please go,” he urges, then she tells
Where she concealed a homemade bomb;
“You’ve gone too far this time,” he says,
“I’ll have to take you in, Mom.”

~Day Williams

 

Spray in the Strife

Spray in the Strife

I read fake news today oh boy
Another hit piece on the D.C. King;
And as the piece was by a cad
Known as a deadbeat dad,
The story didn’t add

Up, being shallow and bizarre;
It claimed he had some Russian friends–so strange
Because the writer seemed impaired;
I’d read his trash before;
None doubted that he’d been procured
By bankers and a sorcerer.

I watched a vid today, oh boy;
The Company had pushed another war;
A crowd of criminals found ways
To cook the black op books,
Having paid the crooks.
I’d love to cuff your pawns.

Spoke up, they censored me,
Tagged for saying let’s be free;
Pushed around and sprayed while cops stood down;
And frowning much, I noticed that I bled.
They stole my coat like spoiled brats,
Boarded the bus like desert rats;
Flipped me off and glared like crazy folks;
Somebody joked about their brutal schemes.

I read fake news today oh boy
Ten thousand holes in every article
And though the holes had grown each hour,
They shoved them in the shower.
Now they know how many holes it takes to make the Langley power.
I’d love to cuff your pawns.

~Day Williams

 

“Sleeper in the Valley” by Arthur Rimbaud

SLEEPER IN THE VALLEY

(Le Dormeur du Val)

 

Green vale where a river sings like a choir,

Flirting with grasses, those tattered rags

Of silver; where the sun, from hills of fire,

Shines; green vale where rays flash even in crags!

 

A young soldier, mouth open, naked head,

Sleeps; he’s stretched in grass under skies,

Neck bathing in a blue watercress bed−

He’s pale in his green bed where the light cries.

 

His feet in gladiolus, sleep enfolds

Him, smiling like a sick child taking rest.

Nature, rock the child warmly, he’s cold.

 

Sweet smells don’t make his nostrils quiver wide,

He sleeps in the sun, his hand on his chest,

Tranquil. He has two red holes in his right side.

 

~Arthur Rimbaud

(translated from the French by Day Williams)

A Day at Grandpa’s Farm

A Day at Grandpa’s Farm

After the pump breaks a pipe, you dig a ditch,
And when it’s fixed, you start the motor, push
The wheel-line over mud and through the corn,
And start the pump again to water crops.

At Dead Man’s Slide, the D-4 tilts a bit,
The harrow kicks up choking dust; you shush
Fears that the yellow CAT will roll without warning
And squish you like ground meat in butcher shops.

Covered with dust from head to toe, you hear
The bell ring from the house, and hurry down
The hill to dine on steak, potatoes, peas,

And corn, corn on the cob, fresh-picked, you smear
The butter on, your brother plays the clown,
And Grandma offers ice cream, if you please.

~Day

“Nighthawks,” 1942 by Edward Hopper

Nighthawks

This woman that I met an hour ago,
Has hair bright red, bright like a flame at dusk,
Reminding me how Mother’s hair will glow
And how her hands and face can smell like musk;

This woman, an ice queen, desires a man,
Her pores cry out for warm togetherness,
And I could take her to my room–“That fan,
Bud, moans like a coyote in distress,

This coffee’s cold, I need a drop or two,
She needs a warm-up too” . . . like Mother, she
Won’t say what she wants, makes you hunt for clues,
She’ll drive you crazy over cups of tea.

That other man has given her the eye.
I must be honest with myself, admit
I always treat a woman dignified
And I’ll go home tomorrow and I’ll sit

Beside the fire while Mother talks and knits,
And Sammy licks my hand and sleepy Patch
Curls in my lap . . . “These bills will cover this . . .
I’m sorry, but I have a train to catch.”

~Day

April 13: Thomas Jefferson, Man of Liberty

“The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time.”
~Thomas Jefferson

 

Thomas Jefferson, Man of Liberty

The Man of Liberty, a paradox,
With passion wrote of rights and liberty
While owning slaves the way that men own stocks
Today, while adding to his family tree.

1752: Beginnings
At nine, I studied Latin, Greek and French,
And Homer, Tacitus, the law, John Locke,
And always carried my Greek grammar text.
I studied fifteen hours a day–hard work.

1768: Monticello
I studied architecture and designed
And built Monticello, where I could read
And write and drink my silky, soft, smooth wine
My agent shipped me from Marseille with speed.

The Revolution
What can men do when taxes are too high?
Buckle like cowards or put up a fight?
Bright men, strong nerves, each risked his life
For a people’s government and for our rights.

1776: The Declaration of Independence
“We hold these truths to be self-evident,”
The words I wrote with my favorite quill pen,
Rights from the Creator of women and men,
“Unalienable” – there! I’ve said it again.

I wrote that England’s king had made a mess,
That life and liberty and the pursuit
Of happiness were rights which God had blessed
All men with, which the king sought to uproot.

1777: The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom
I drafted the Virginia Statute for
Religious Freedom, which begins “Whereas,
Almighty God hath created the mind free”

And states “our civil rights have no dependence”
On our opinions of religion any
More than our physics and geometry
Opinions, and that “Truth is great, and will

Prevail” if left alone, therefore law
No longer will compel a man to aid
A certain ministry but that all men
Shall have the freedom to profess, and by

Argument to maintain, their own opinions
In matters of Religion, and their views
Shall in no way diminish, augment or
Affect their civil scope and power, and

Th’Assembly did declare these rights to be
Natural rights of mankind, so that
If this Act were repealed, it would infringe
On those same natural rights; when drafters came

To Philadelphia and looked for guides
To write the Constitution, they esteemed
This Act so much that they embodied it
With a clause: “but no religious test

Shall ever be required” to qualify
To any office or a public trust
In the United States–which pleased me well.
For on these questions, men are fallible.

Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781–83
Can a land’s liberties be thought secure
When we have taken their sole sound foundation:
Conviction in the people’s minds, assured
These are God’s gifts and that to violate

The Lord’s benevolence and breach his trust
Would anger him, like Pharaoh and the Red Sea?
Now when I contemplate that God is just,
From what I’ve seen, I tremble for my country.

1787
The blood of tyrants and oppressors, so dear,
Must from time to time refresh the Freedom Tree
What country can preserve its liberties
If people don’t preserve the rebel spirit?

The Bill of Rights
That Constitution has some good parts,
Mr. Madison, you’ve made a fine start,
To raise it to the level of fine art,
Give it a Bill of Rights, give it a heart

For individuals, so government
Can’t overbear and take God-given rights:
Free speech, no searches with no warrant,
Freedom to worship Divinity’s light,

Right to bear arms, to congregate
As to what the government has done or may
Do, right to counsel, not to incriminate
Themselves, let law’s due process go its way.

And Mr. Madison took my advice
So that the rights were written and precise.

1803: Louisiana Purchase
Nap’s offer was too great for us to say
No, for it doubled the U.S.’s size
At three cents for an acre, yes, we’ll pay:
Good deal, no matter how it’s scrutinized.

“For our whole lives, this is our noblest work,
The U.S. now is among the power of the first rank,”
Said Livingston, the Minister to France,
“We did it with help from an English bank.”

1803–1806: Lewis and Clark
What’s in the West? The maps were dark.
I commissioned two men, Lewis and Clark
Get me samples of wildlife, plants, bark.
Tell me of eagles, hawks, river birds and larks,

Is there a waterway to the western coast?
That is what I want to know the most.
Bring plants and seeds of which the region boasts;
Make this an expedition that we can toast.

Sally Hemings
Sally and I aren’t items in the news
We keep it private, actions that we do,
No one has forced her–it is what she chooses
To do, let us be or I’ll question you.

1801–1805:The Barbary Pirates
The pirates boarded, daggers in both hands
And between the teeth, and sailors, scared,
Gave up the ships, gave up command,
Were sold as slaves; I, President, declared

I’d end their ransom scam, white slavery
In the Islamic realms had to desist;
The cost in lives and merchandise was dear
Too much was flowing to Islamic fists.

For the nation’s budget one-fifth goes
To ransom, mil. a year, is much too grave
To pay the tribute pirates have imposed.
These pirates turn our sailors into slaves

Hard labor hell for so-called infidels–
We’ll send Marines to clean, so lives are saved
Decatur sailed with frigates full
Of fighters who took the pirates to their graves.

He stormed a ship and overpowered foes,
The age’s boldest and most daring act,
And the Marines took Derna, which was close
To Tripoli, which we would have attacked,

So Yusuf Karamanli had to sign
A treaty to conclude hostilities
And free enslaved Americans to dine
In the United States as they might please.

1817: University of Virginia
A university on an extensive
And liberal scale I had conceived while I
Served as third President, one that would give
Students the knowledge cup, with no requirement

To know a catechism. They could read
Ancient or modern languages, or law,
Medicine, mathematics, chemistry,
Or in philosophy. The tragic flaw

In other universities, I said:
They were religious schools, and I was firm
That higher education not be wed
To a religious doctrine any term.

1826: Life’s End
God gave us liberty when he gave life
(Time wastes too fast, our precious passing lives),
John Adams lives this Fourth of July,
And Independence thrives . . . now I can die.

Epitaph
And on his epitaph, which he designed:
Nothing about his Presidency; instead
The Declaration, which he wrote and signed,
Virginia’s University (he led

With how he had conceived curriculum)
And Statute for Religious Freedom of
Virginia, law designed to overcome
Prejudice for beliefs–labors of love.

~Day Williams

 

 

“Of Many Ways to Make a Poem” by Day Williams

Sonnet 85

Of many ways to make a poem, let
Me tell you one: First, you ignore the phones
(A habit you acquire when you’re in debt);
And second, you write letters to your foes

And tell them how their hatred helped you grow
Much bigger; third, you wiggle all your toes
Behind a light and watch the silhouettes
On walls which run with beads of jogger sweat.

You are not done. You have to rip your heart
From your chest and gaze through a microscope
To know for whom it beats, and why, and where.

For forty days behold great works of art.
Then take a pen or pencil hooked to hope
And faith and love, and write about your cares.

~Day Williams

 

“Sonnet 98 (Barabbas)” by Day Williams

Sonnet 98 (Barabbas)

 

I can’t believe they set me free. That man,

So peaceful, self-assured, prepared to die–

Even Pontius Pilate, who’s no fan

Of Jews, said he had done no wrong. I’ll fly

 

Down this road fast as this gray donkey can

Trot, far from crosses silhouetted high

On Calvary, the symbols of the plans

By Rome to rule by fear. I want to cry

 

When my own countrymen, my fellow Jews,

Meekly obey the goons and clowns from Rome

Who wield the swords and shields. I have a chance

Again to stir rebellion, as I choose.

 

How foolish was that Jesus to come home,

Claiming he was a prophet. Such romance!

~Day Williams

 

March 15: “New York City” by Day Williams

NEW YORK CITY

 

A prisoner who had forgotten chains,

He wakened in another place, New York,

Discovered that his chains were tight, and fought

To free himself from demons’ teeth and nails.

The traffic roar and clatter ground like salt

On metal shells, corroded Spirit’s core,

And canceled credit former loves had earned.

The push to hone his craft had lured the man

To bare himself before the strangers’ streets.

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,

Swallowed suits, gangs, and clerks, the poet’s peers.

~Day Williams

 

“South Bronx Subway” by Danny Lyon