Harold Whit Williams

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Most days just lay there like blank sheets of paper. Others get scribbled upon, then tossed in the bin. Cut a few up into squares, set aside for later. That swan in the park frightened you as a child. Its fluffed-up animal aggressiveness, its maniacal honking. But now it is later. Clock in, say hello to the boss. Take off your coat and stay awhile. Hold all your calls, breathe deeply. Fold yourself into yourself. Make soft creases at first, then harder ones. Admire your elongated neck, your sharp-edged flank. At long last, the wings – opening, spreading. A wind lifts you up into the empty air above your workspace, above your desk. A desk cluttered with books, university forms. A decade's accumulation of dead skin cells – yours, others.


Waiting For Gordo


(for soundmen everywhere)

“To every man his little cross. Till he dies. And is forgotten.”

– Samuel Beckett



We started drinking before noon

Because it was Cleveland.

The club, open early, was warm

And cozy, but no soundman

Or P.A. equipment for hours.

Our guitars and amps and drums

And luggage in a sad pile by the stage.

Outside, Mother Nature venting

Her spleen with cold, hateful

Outbursts off the lake. We kept

Drinking and it was still Cleveland.

Ass-end of a long stretch on roads

And highways and turnpikes and

Tollways, and most everyplace

Could've been Cleveland without

The lake weather, but with all

The drinking and the waiting.

Senses dulled, per diems drained,

Talk turned to home. To sizzling

Summer afternoons, to cicadas

Buzzing in live oaks, to which

Cantina serves the best margarita

And why. But it was still Cleveland

Outside and inside, no matter

The venting weather or the drinking. 

No one coming or going. No one

Not drinking. It was Cleveland

And it would always be Cleveland.


Therapy Dog


This is not your lucky day – it says so here on a fortune cookie slip. Pink slips all around, people. A slip of the tongue, she whispered, after crying out a coworker's name during climax. A lucky day would be in Technicolor with symphonic background music, not shitty and gray with sirens blaring like this one. A lucky day might even be a cartoon, one with inky-dinky noises and a super dog hero. Let's call him Therapy Dog. Gather 'round, stressed out Citizens of Earth! Pet the puppy. Just be becalmed stroking his fluffy and fantastic fur. See, everything is going to be all right. Now, put that semiautomatic away inside your desk drawer and for the love of Christ please get back to work.


When You Paint Your Masterpiece


Start with a wash of earth tones

On the blank canvas of today.

Edge in those deep blues

From the bottom left corner. Muddy

Waters on the hi-fi, Bessie Smith

Up next. Mormons at the front door

Knocking, the very idea of heaven

Whitewashed across their faces.

Greet them with a hearty ­– Shalom!

Offer whiskey, coffee, Vicadin. Tell

Them filthy jokes, but remember,

Sometimes you laugh alone.

Then back to work, splattering blood-

Red, vented spleen purple. Gnaw

Upon your cold biscuit, cue up

Sidney Bechet. As afternoon wanes

Into early evening, the yellows

Become orange become lavender,

Pink, then black. Lamplight plays

With all these layers, but you draw

A lit candle up closer. There, half-

Hidden inside the swirls sits your face.

Or, what might be your face, if only

You possessed the brush-stroking skills

Of some true and starving artist.


Preaching to the Choir


You must insist upon sunrise after sunrise after sunrise. A puffy cloud above the oak above the headstone above the housecat's bones. Coffee alone or with he or with she. Whisperings about weather. Cool linoleum floor; birdsong through a cracked window. You must be off to work, to strip away the layers, to peel back the snakeskin of the Id, to whittle down to the jagged poetry in each moment. You must pretend to exist beyond the dream's wall. You must find yourself lost, then found. You must give and give until what you were given is gone.



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Harold Whit Williams is guitarist for the critically acclaimed rock band Cotton Mather. He is also a prize-winning poet; recipient of the 2014 Mississippi Review Poetry Prize, featured poet in the 2014 University of North Texas Kraken Reading Series, and his collection, Backmasking, was winner of the 2013 Robert Phillips Poetry Chapbook Prize from Texas Review Press. His first full-length collection, Lost in the Telling, is available from FutureCycle Press. He lives in Austin, Texas.