By Johnathon Williams:


We fought all night, all morning, so I treat
myself to breakfast down at Common Grounds,
a Fayetteville thing to do. A regular pounds
the dregs of a Bloody Mary, and the heat
at 10 is already too much. It’s all
too much: the water bill, my promises,
her steady, undefeatable love. She says
no change can fault the way she feels or call

to question time — now thirteen years. But time
is the whole problem, its relentless march
away from that high school lunchroom, the boy
taunting the poor retarded kid in line
and her calling him out. Jesus, the arch
of her back. Her fists and hair. My shame and joy.

         with lines from Ovid and Goethe

The night is slipping away. Throw back the bolt.
I’ve no excuse, no right, no hope to soothe
these midnight consternations. Yes, I’m married:
She’s sleeping six doors down — you met last Tuesday.
You borrowed our detergent in the laundry.
And when she left to lay the baby down,
you and I, we sat, not talking not moving
our breath alone to meter that conspicuous
lack of manners and the half-inch remove
of your arm from mine. I’m sorry. I know
I shouldn’t be here, but you were reading Goethe
(Goethe in a laundry mat, who does that?)
so I’ve come to say I do not know myself
and God forbid I should
, I’ve come to say
a useless life is an early death, I’ve come
to say this morning I went for a run
around the lake. It was still dark. And mist
swallowed my whole life every dozen paces.
Have you ever done such a thing? Have you
watched your own breath condense, take shape, then clear,
rejoiced in that unleavened vanishing?
You’re thinking man is made by his belief,
thinking love can do much but duty more,
thinking how long you leaned your knee on mine.
The night is slipping away. And Goethe dead.
The night is slipping away. Throw back the bolt.

(Today’s poems previously appeared in The Offending Adam, and appear here today with permission from the poet.)

Johnathon Williams works as a writer and web developer from his home in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He’s a founding editor of the online magazine Linebreak and the co-editor of Two Weeks, a digital anthology of contemporary poetry.

Editor’s Note: Every now and then, as a reader, you simply fall in love with a poem at first encounter. Today’s poems had me at word one. Is it their effortless way of manipulating and conveying narrative? Is it that they speak to those shameful hidden human thoughts, urges, and actions that haunt many—if not all—of us? Or is it those instances of language that still the world for a moment? “the water bill, my promises, her steady, undefeatable love” “Jesus, the arch of her back. Her fists and hair. My shame and joy.” With love at first sight, the answers are not important. You may simply indulge.

Want to see more by and about Johnathon Williams?
The Morning News – Poem, “Leveling Up”
The Morning News – Article, “A Taste for Flesh”
Pebble Lake Review, “Conversations With Imaginary Women”
Pebble Lake Review, “Dirge”
The Rumpus, “Single Lane Bridge”
Unsplendid, “Sapphics for a Dead Porn Star”


    1. I know, Deborah! So many great moments, it was hard to choose my favorites. I really just die for these poems.


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