Meditation on William Carlos Williams: a New Basement Page

St. James’ Place, Lexington, KY, May 13, 2003

According to the 12 steps,
everything depends upon
the addict’s willingness
to admit powerlessness

I know this as I knock
on James’ door and
he opens it, half-asleep
and half-stoned, his room

Dressed in disregarded
blankets, a dirty mattress
and a useless dustpan on
a single brokedown chair

I know this as I ask him
about his first meeting.
“I didn’t really like it,”
he says with a shrug.

“People cussin’, yeah,
doin’ and sayin’ all that
kinda junk. But I’m
feeling better now.

Bet I can get over it by
myself with the Lord’s
help, don’t you reckon?”
And I shake my head

but I don’t say no
I only think about
housecalls and half-stoned
doctors and how William

Carlos Williams sought
a new aesthetic worthy of
his rhythmic name and worthy
of illiterate saints named

James while he spent his days
grinding out quite a living
cranking out the sick once
healed and how he decided that

so much depended upon
a drenched red wheelbarrow
I don’t say no. No, I don’t.
But I am absolutely certain

That more than rhythm and
syllables are at stake here
though I wonder if anything
depends on what I say next

A revision of a poem I’d forgotten about. I served as staff liaison for a transitional housing unit and this was inspired by my experiences serving in that capacity.


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