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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C. K. Williams
C. K. Williams
Born in 1936, C. K. Williams won the National Book Award, the Pulitzer for poetry, and served as a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets...
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FURTHER READING
Poems About Childhood
"Out, Out—"
by Robert Frost
Don't Let Me Be Lonely [There was a time]
by Claudia Rankine
A Boy Juggling a Soccer Ball
by Christopher Merrill
A child said, What is the grass?
by Walt Whitman
Another Country
by Ryan Teitman
anyone lived in a pretty how town
by E. E. Cummings
Babylon
by Robert Graves
Because I cannot remember my first kiss
by Roger Bonair-Agard
Birches
by Robert Frost
Block City
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Blur
by Andrew Hudgins
Childhood is the Kingdom Where Nobody Dies
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
deer & salt block
by Joshua Marie Wilkinson
Early Memory
by January Gill O'Neil
Fern Hill
by Dylan Thomas
Fifteen, Maybe Sixteen Things to Worry About
by Judith Viorst
For Some Slight I Can't Quite Recall
by Ross Gay
From the Lives of My Friends
by Michael Dickman
Giraffes
by Kimiko Hahn
Going Down Hill on a Bicycle
by Henry Charles Beeching
In the Waiting Room
by Elizabeth Bishop
Jabberwocky
by Lewis Carroll
Lullaby in Blue
by Betsy Sholl
My Aunts
by Meghan O'Rourke
My Bright Aluminum Tumblers
by Michael Ryan
My Childhood
by Matthew Zapruder
Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood
by William Wordsworth
Pirate Story
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Playgrounds
by Laurence Alma-Tadema
Pledge
by Elizabeth Powell
Poem for You
by David Shapiro
Recuerdo
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Solar system bedsheets
by Sarah Vap
The Children's Hour
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The Lamb
by William Blake
The Portrait
by Stanley Kunitz
The Retreat
by Henry Vaughan
The Swing
by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Tower
by W. B. Yeats
They Call This
by C. K. Williams
To My Best Friend's Big Sister
by Ross Gay
Untitled [The child thought it strange]
by Richard Meier
Untitled [You mustn't swim till you're six weeks old]
by Rudyard Kipling
We Are Seven
by William Wordsworth
Poems About Tragedy and Grief
"My True Love Hath My Heart and I Have His"
by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge
Adonais, 49-52, [Go thou to Rome]
by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Hamlet, Act III, Scene I [To be, or not to be]
by William Shakespeare
Against Elegies
by Marilyn Hacker
Alabanza: In Praise of Local 100
by Martín Espada
Arise, Go Down
by Li-Young Lee
Assault to Abjury
by Raymond McDaniel
Before
by Carl Adamshick
Breaking Across Us Now
by Katie Ford
Curtains
by Ruth Stone
Day of Grief
by Gerald Stern
Dear Lonely Animal,
by Oni Buchanan
December, 1919
by Claude McKay
Easter 1916
by W. B. Yeats
Eulogy
by Kevin Young
Facing It
by Yusef Komunyakaa
Fairbanks Under the Solstice
by John Haines
here rests
by Lucille Clifton
Hum
by Ann Lauterbach
I Can Afford Neither the Rain
by Holly Iglesias
I Found Her Out There
by Thomas Hardy
I measure every Grief I meet (561)
by Emily Dickinson
I Pack Her Suitcase with Sticks, Light the Tinder, and Shut the Lid
by Rob Schlegel
Imagine
by Kamilah Aisha Moon
In Louisiana
by Albert Bigelow Paine
Lycidas
by John Milton
Memorial Day for the War Dead
by Yehuda Amichai
On His Deceased Wife
by John Milton
Ozymandias
by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Pretty Polly
by Jane Springer
Quiet Mourning
by Laura Moriarty
Requiescat
by Matthew Arnold
Richard Cory
by Edwin Arlington Robinson
Rose Aylmer
by Walter Savage Landor
September 1, 1939
by W. H. Auden
Song ["When I am dead, my dearest"]
by Christina Rossetti
Stillbirth
by Laure-Anne Bosselaar
Surprised By Joy
by William Wordsworth, read by Susan Stewart
That This
by Susan Howe
The Dead
by Joan Aleshire
The Hour and What Is Dead
by Li-Young Lee
The Not Tale (Funeral)
by Caroline Bergvall
The Second Coming
by W. B. Yeats
The Stolen Child
by W. B. Yeats
The Widow's Lament in Springtime
by William Carlos Williams
The Words Under the Words
by Naomi Shihab Nye
Tigers
by Melissa Ginsburg
To W.C.W. M.D.
by Alfred Kreymborg
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The Gaffe

 
by C. K. Williams

1

If that someone who's me yet not me yet who judges me is always with me, 
as he is, shouldn't he have been there when I said so long ago that thing 
   I said?

If he who rakes me with such not trivial shame for minor sins now were
   there then,
shouldn't he have warned me he'd even now devastate me for my
   unpardonable affront?

I'm a child then, yet already I've composed this conscience-beast, who
   harries me:
is there anything else I can say with certainty about who I was, except that I, 
   that he,

could already draw from infinitesimal transgressions complex chords
   of remorse,
and orchestrate ever-undiminishing retribution from the hapless rest
   of myself?


2

The son of some friends of my parents has died, and my parents, paying
    their call,
take me along, and I'm sent out with the dead boy's brother and some 
   others to play.

We're joking around, and words come to my mind, which to my 
   amazement are said.
How do you know when you can laugh when somebody dies, your brother dies?

is what's said, and the others go quiet, the backyard goes quiet,
   everyone stares,
and I want to know now why that someone in me who's me yet not me let
   me say it.

Shouldn't he have told me the contrition cycle would from then be ever
   upon me, 
it didn't matter that I'd really only wanted to know how grief ends,
   and when?


3

I could hear the boy's mother sobbing inside, then stopping, sobbing
   then stopping.
Was the end of her grief already there? Had her someone in her told her
   it would end?

Was her someone in her kinder to her, not tearing at her, as mine did, 
   still does, me, 
for guessing grief someday ends? Is that why her sobbing stopped 
   sometimes?

She didn't laugh, though, or I never heard her. How do you know when
   you can laugh?
Why couldn't someone have been there in me not just to accuse me, but
   to explain?

The kids were playing again, I was playing, I didn't hear anything more
   from inside.
The way now sometimes what's in me is silent, too, and sometimes, 
   though never really, forgets.









From Wait. Copyright © 2010 by C. K. Williams. Used with permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. All rights reserved.
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