Patrick Williams is a poet and academic librarian living in Central New York. His recent work appears in publications including Noble/Gas Qtrly, Posit, Glittermobs, and Heavy Feather Review. His chapbook Hygiene in Reading (Publishing Genius, 2016) was awarded the 2015 Chris Toll Memorial Prize. He edits Really System, a journal of poetry and extensible poetics. Find him at patrickwilliamsintext.com and on Twitter @activitystory.
You are the ice menace
on Lincoln Highway
You are the industrial accident
on Broadway sidewalk space
You are special methods
for tabulating hotel tax
You are the standard rules
for land transfer
You are financial relief
for military training
You are an electric sign
announcing mayors’ salaries
You are flood preparations
around Ten Mile Creek
You are the storm door
at the pool room
You are an iron box
behind the nitrate plant
You are the signpost
outside the watchman’s house
You are newspapers and the war
but you are planning for peace
Manual Random Hill
The sediment of our sweat is profound
privilege, an oblique form of fortune.
We painted our portrait in petroleum
jelly together. Its surface lasted four
hours, but beneath it: more like forever.
Who forced your fall in the traffic’s path?
A scraped palm will always look filthy.
But ours are never truly filthy, that much
is clear. You & I are merely squatters
on the tiniest parcel of joint & muscle
pain. Let’s savor our common affection
for throwback diaeresis in The New Yorker.
What else could make a term like reënlist
even briefly beautiful to either one of us?
In our yard, each new bite’s a symptom,
each squeal’s a boosted song hurled up
to our friends who fill the cheapest seats,
gracious as the undersampled fanfare
that blasts each time the lotto box pays out.