J L Williams

JL Williams


the beautiful

We recognise you.

In that video where the woman is french kissing the cat,
in that school where mirrors throw images around the room,
in that tent with mirrors in which your voice says
love, love is action, in your tears — 

we recognise you.

Mother's mouth, heart's voice, home.

Guns under pillows, in movie theatres,
on street corners with the Empire State Building
looming like a Wurlitzer, like a haven — for a minute,
for a gorilla, for a girl.  

For love, for action, to create disaster, to escape,
in protest of a family, a country, mobilised by greed to kill
even its own. And styrofoam. And Big Macs on sesame seed buns.  

We feel freer here.

But hear your voice.
Hear you saying, ‘my daughter is the light’.  

Hear you saying, ‘hurry, hurry, don't forget to write,
tell me, what can you see from over there’.

Hear you saying that each line
should be a surprise
to us, ‘at least to me’.  

And the tears run because
we recognise you with parts of our body
we didn't even know could feel.  

And wonder
if we'll ever be home.  

Another shooting, and you say
‘nobody cares about poetry’.  

But we do.
And if we do — there must be others, like you,
for whom strange 

placements of words, choices of
break and phrase make the body ache,
make the body remember
what home feels like —

words in our mind, your mouth —
that's the start of something like action,
the shape of something like love. 


Joy comes as fire does,
shallow and blue-tongued, 

green round the edges,
smoking until the room seethes
and bodies lurch for air.  

The hunting is noxious, embittered
soil mats fur. Through digging
we learn to survive.  

Guts fall like silence on brass bands. 
You shout, we wake and wake you.
You turn, the bed is empty.  

God's like this, peace, mercy —
believable. Fold up.
Paper birds nest on each cushion
as if to lay eggs.  

You cry, you build. Dig.
Learn up doesn't always mean good.  

Learn to live without killing everything.

Like a fern.
Unfurling for millennia,
spores impermeable to stomachs
of all creatures.  

That story again. A knock, you let us enter.
You feed us.
You offer us water and the bowl
does not empty.  

You do not recognise us
but it does not matter, you are kind anyway
and not just because
we might have been your mother.  

For this you will be a tree,
feel sap rise each spring
and your lover will nest in your branches, crying,
‘my joy is such that it comes, unseemly and besotted,
carrying your name like a totem
through the palace of each present moment.’ 


We believe you are our mother.

You wave before the flag.

The apples in the orchard
are small this year,
size of a gold coin.

We pull one down.
We bite.  

We know you are our mother
by your tears.

JL Williams: expanding dialogue through poetry across languages, perspectives and cultures and in multimodal and cross-form work including explorations in visual art, music, dance, opera and theatre. Books include Condition of FireLocust and Marlin and After Economy (Shearsman Books). www.jlwilliamspoetry.co.uk