“I Knew Better Than To Say” by Beth Williams

Beth Williams


Friends want me to write about it,
explain how a match turns to fire
as if I’m the only one who knows
how to research insurrection.
But I’d rather write about the bird
flying south with her dinner dangling
like a little war flag from her mouth,
how she waits with a trait unknown to me,
until she’s secure on a limb to eat. I’d like
to write about fears over my shoulder,
the fact that love will one day
leave me empty, like an egret
standing one-legged on a pier
looking into the river for food.
This day, nothing swims by.
Yes, I’m afraid of being left alone,
afraid I might be the pelican left behind,
my flight so pitiful I’m not even able
to follow the down of the nearest draft.
I cannot turn my head all the way around.
If I could see behind me I might
stop right here and wait. I might
run my fingers through his hair
just before sleep takes my lover away,
breathing deeply in all he exhales.
Don’t ask me again to write
that this is not who we are, it is.
We are the species unable to fly,
the un-winged walkers
who every single day find a way
to pluck the idea of hope from the sky.
And once a year, we make an excuse
for all we have done by saying
Happy New Year.

from Poets Respond
January 10, 2021


Beth Williams: “Yesterday defies words, yet I’ve had so many friends ask if I’m writing poems about it. No, I am speechless. Still, I had to say something.”

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