About the poet
C. K. Williams (b. 1939) was particularly well-known for his formal innovations, the long-lined...
I was walking home down a hill near our house on a balmy afternoon under the blossoms
Of the pear trees that go flamboyantly mad here every spring with their burgeoning forth
When a young man turned in from a corner singing no it was more of a cadenced shouting
Most of which I couldn't catch I thought because the young man was black speaking black
It didn't matter I could tell he was making his song up which pleased me he was nice-looking
Husky dressed in some style of big pants obviously full of himself hence his lyrical flowing over
We went along in the same direction then he noticed me there almost beside him and "Big"
He shouted-sang "Big" and I thought how droll to have my height incorporated in his song
So I smiled but the face of the young man showed nothing he looked in fact pointedly away
And his song changed "I'm not a nice person" he chanted "I'm not I'm not a nice person"
No menace was meant I gathered no particular threat but he did want to be certain I knew
That if my smile implied I conceived of anything like concord between us I should forget it
That's all nothing else happened his song became indecipherable to me again he arrived
Where he was going a house where a girl in braids waited for him on the porch that was all
No one saw no one heard all the unasked and unanswered questions were left where they were
It occurred to me to sing back "I'm not a nice person either" but I couldn't come up with a tune
Besides I wouldn't have meant it nor he have believed it both of us knew just where we were
In the duet we composed the equation we made the conventions to which we were condemned
Sometimes it feels even when no one is there that someone something is watching and listening
Someone to rectify redo remake this time again though no one saw nor heard no one was there
from The Singing (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003), copyright © 2003 by C. K. Williams, used by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. www.fsgbooks.com