Issue 21: J. L. Williams

Marilyn‘n Johnny  [sic]

no money no political modesty

the ceiling dripping with glowing chillies flag

flowers hindi operatic pologies

asias sweatheart folds unfolds her napkin sloth

tuned to u.s. of comas describing one

last night of first knights honour her celibate

stockade dragged through the room to the door to the

hall to the stair to the hall to the door to

the walk to the walk to the river of skulls

collaboration – the chillies burst crimson

with day as the car intercourses new year

where did she sleep with the bullfighters cock sure

no modesty no hotel reservations

she watches his hands hold his head what do they

rub with such steady motion thoughts with hell from

her faithful atheist for whom treacherous

calumnations peopled by her disciples

lie with their legs open as if they had no

holes barred from resignation she watches him

her fingers shape a figure in the air as

silent as his the bed she rests on smells of

other bodies static on the t.v. snows

the boxer drinks a glove of his own blood and

thrown fight tears our mobster ticket holders have

no reservations no public sanity

and knew he could not leave the ring on foot he

bore noble impositions to revile

with a satisfactory cunt she led her

harem to promulgate they forgot with their

embareassments and swallowed boredom whole

requesting deprivation so the boxer

tuned the speakers frequency to embalm our

audience for thirst quenching and cleanliness

exwhorebitant prices in the restaurant

wrest her from her attitude of success an

unexpressable panic grips her dry throat

no sanity no miniscule proportions

could ease her hunger or terror billy on

the radio taunts dejavu for secure

the prisons are full of this brilliance and high

art a good room in winter as well when the

mind whips the begging words from empty mouths with

laughing knives she deliberates and runs ten

white waitresses “thank you” kindly for leaving

if only she could hold her hand so straight so

sure pure this inundation of belief if

only she could conquer him so completely

genitalia and all that foreign soil

no proportions no reserved erotica

watch while the film makers play their elusions

she wants them as much as his poverty their

eyes the questions are unanswerable when

skinning genetic faces do not ask the

reason why for it is the duty of the

inconceived to fight their fathers desires

she loved you you were in search of the lighted

lamps derivation altaring the landscape

of bridges in a time sleep of cracked bell tolls

dying each day like the columnists dream on

the twenty foot scrim what was his lust after

no erotica no body lexicon

to inscribe her hour loneliness with some meaning

she never fucked him like a dog because she

was not a dog or thought is the glorious

cancer she ran her hand over and over

with the phrases of a crippled mans succour

come as you must in battalions of stained glass

balloons set the choirs of dark tongued icons

aflame with weightlessness sleep with words painful

in your nonplussed skin call your burnt martyrs now

they desire this as their actual life

yes she has no reason for her preferences

no lexicon no meaningful cowardice

exfumiation fire fighters bare their

bones to the comedy devil that is why

she wants to inhale the powder of their ashes

for the meaningfulness of that calling thing

her elbow caught the angel in a bronze fall

icarus holding his breath on the edge of

and not for nirvana or heaven or eve

hate parsimonious kisses the shadow

the snow gives back is blue it is all it has

offered after the effort of being cold

she sucks the strength from his posture whispering

no cowardice no addictive medicines

who could say if he ever emerged from the

forty foot fall into unknowing waters

sea, which absorbs itself while else is destined

black coffee boiling in the empty pot is

her hallucination for mornings of spy

inundation betty took her face off for

recognition ought to be introduction

considering the disguise was the adverts

intention how awful it was to be left

by the dealer even though he wished to sell

her paintings and reveal her nude awake on

no medicines no sympathetic belief

how much could she abandon to fiction and

revel in the green glow of paranoia

not responsible for the light emitting

from radio dials faces but of the

sound of the words waves or the sine waves themselves

cruel in the name of protection nobly build

half of castles circles planning the funds will

supply until beautys only excuse is

remains bowing to cars pussing by on the

wrong side of the street who is prescient of the

darkness who is wandering in the heart of

no belief no tolerant morality

as priests lineless hands cross ash on her forehead

she nailed them in one by one the boxer with

his cardinal lips glistening on the crown

on the left the fire mans urn dangling

like an uncorked bell on the right where he

belongs the mobster hanged from his hard cock, and

with his head deep underground to keep a wide

white eye on lifes works progress plots the priest as

base trace her thinning footsteps from their gravestone

to the last remaining door watch her wash the

ash and blood and come and ink away for him

no morality no company money


The 'Prayer of the Virgin in Bartos' claimed that Christ was crucified with five nails, which were named Sator, Arepo, Tenet, Opera and Rotas. — James De Quincey Donehoo

Is this life? Life is this.

This is my only life.

Is this only life?

Life is not this.

This life.

What I see at the periphery.

An experience in which my hand is not my hand

(or Christ’s hand, whose nail is called

Sator) or the rubber hand, (whose nail is called

Arepo, or the sower). There is magic in the nail’s

names: Sator, Arepo, Tenet, Opera, Rotas –

to extinguish fire without water say

‘Sator, Arepo, Tenet, Opera, Rotas’

or ‘Rotas, Opera, Tenet, Arepo, Sator’

or something is breaking me in half.

This life in not my

experience of the hand which is rubber

or Christ’s hand nailed by Tenet, cross-wise,

as it pierces sun-burnt skin my own hand

bursts into blossom – as I imagined

over and over, you entering me would

burst me into blossom – opera-ish

waves of thunderous compassion buoying

flames which cannot be extinguished

by water only these words, names of the nails

piercing the sunburnt skin of Christ/the rubber hand –

my experience – Arepo, Tenet, Opera –

Sator – Rotas – my hand on the wheel or my hand

on the hip of the beast whose low horns

point the direction in which we plough, sow,

plant – as I imagined so many times

your entrance into me which was foretold by the coming

of thunderous waves of compassion from between

these aching hips, opera-ish in their burning which

no water can extinguish but only air excited

by waves of sound lapping from this point in time

and space at which the hand, Christ’s sunburnt/rubber hand,

is pierced by Sator, Arepo, Tenet, Opera, Rotas –

and I feel you/it/him gentle entering as the bee does

blossom or the seed does

fertile, ash-laden soil,

with care for the fatigued origin – unknown –

comprehended/preserved, with tender care – the opus –

wheeled, unknown, through time and space

from one ash-covered slope and valley

to this which is not life, but a spell written

in certain ink (blood of Christ) or (blood of Herculaneum’s)

sower of all this is, is this: love or fire

which cannot be extinguished

or begun, except by words.


from the oak tree

certain leaves are removed

                  which lets the rain / light in

a building 6000 years ago

could call it a building

washed every winter

in oil blood gold blood gold

                  which lets the light in

bent four fingers back

count them

five six seven eight

thousand years

                  which let the rain / light in

taking out the mastic

makes a dense perfume (cedar-like tears)

crushed clove (aka cleave)

certain letters are removed

                  which let the rain / light in

below the water

white skin

iridescent as fish skin

seen through a glass vase’s

pupil-like curve

hewn he saw

no thing

fishes’ curved eye

sawn saw no thing

o thing

o crystal thing

give me back

my years

                  tho now i have what lets the light in

J. L. Williams's books include Condition of Fire (Shearsman, 2011), Locust and Marlin (Shearsman, 2014), Our Real Red Selves (Vagabond Poets, 2015), House of the Tragic Poet (If A Leaf Falls Press, 2016) and After Economy (Shearsman Books, 2017). She is interested in expanding dialogues through writing across languages, perspectives and cultures and in multimodal and cross-form work, visual art, dance, opera and theatre.

Published widely in journals, her poetry has been translated into numerous languages. She has read at international literature festivals and venues in the UK, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Turkey, Cyprus, Canada, Hungary, Romania, Montenegro and the US. She wrote the libretto for a new opera, Snow, was Writer-in-Residence for the British Art Show 8 in Edinburgh, and plays in the poetry and music band Hail of Bright Stones. Williams curates writing events and creates workshops and professional development activities for poets.

Copyright © 2018 by J.L. Williams, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.