Constant Laval Williams
is a Los Angeles-born poet and former resident of Paris, France, where his writing first came of age. He studied Creative Writing at the University of Southern California where he received the Beau J. Boudreaux Poetry Award (judged by Nick Flynn). His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The American Journal of Poetry, December Magazine, Hotel Amerika, Paris Lit Up, Papalota Negra and others.
Stuck in traffic, I use a lighter to try and burn away
a thread dangling from my beanie, and it burns
like a fuse, toward my forehead.
The secondhand watch ticking on my pale wrist.
This mind a mortar, a relic undetonated on a beach,
lobbed there by a bygone generation, and I’m tired,
the things I can’t seem to forget. Please know—
all that I did to destroy you was sincerely meant
to destroy myself—the hand turning a key
in the ignition, and my slow-motion scream
as I run toward the car just before the explosion,
because really, that should have been my hand—
the driving instructor’s words, so many years ago, as I pulled
in to the DMV—You passed, but just barely. Be careful Constant,
you’re going to hurt someone someday.
WHERE IT LEADS
I’m feeling not unlike a coin on a train track, sitting in parks,
using statue-buskers as therapists and running away
when they move. All these career drug addicts
and feline Prozac. I could make a world with my mind
and people it, I could tickle my own foot and cry and cry.
Could someone tell me where this procession leads?
The long string of ghosts snaking behind us on ropes
tied with lover’s knots so tight they look like rubber bands
cinched around tissues. I wish it all meant something—
Demo-tape. Democracy. Demolition.
Somewhere, God is showing you a soundless Super-8 reel
of your life, and the stars are very quiet.
They say music makes a garden grow faster,
so I play my vegetables Vivaldi
and The Sex Pistols. Inevitably, I feel like bacon
on a veggie burger,
and words have lost their meaning.
I want to live my life echoing beauty,
the way a Tahitian Melon Squash looks
like the lonely arc of a paintbrush.
The way some trees look like explosions
frozen midair. Trees can live almost forever.
But we share blood with the annuals,
sprouting and withering and budding again,
over and over. Things could be simpler than this—
a squash blossom blooming from a wound
is beautiful, until you remember
where the roots are.
The sun. Its reflection shimmering
off a gilded shrine onto the perfect
floundering O’s of carp mouths.
The holy O. The Holy Ghost haloed
in gold. A hula-hoop hovering around
the denim waist of a child.
Uninjured yolks. A crown.
The crowning head
of a newborn during birth.
Chlorophyll. Fat globs of cloistered
cells knitting together at the edge.
Unbroken line. Eternal promise—
my mouth, puckered at the corners,
forming a four-letter word for her.
The ouroboros of a bottle’s opening
that fills it instead.
Tomorrow is not yet born
and I’m already famished
for all the things
I cannot see. The crescent coast,
the boy that will soon emerge
from the sea at twilight,
a weaved crown of sardines
on his head that will dissipate
when he surfaces.
He will have all the words for freedom
that I have never spoken. My crown
of barbed wire. My fat gills
sucking the strata
for drunken moisture,
and finding all the truths
over the years.
When he emerges
he will have my face, and my face
in his hands, and will whisper
the name of God.
He will kiss my forehead
and give birth standing
to a child that bears our eyes.
The child we will swaddle
and place in a basket,
drift out to the horizon.
When we’re done, he will walk
backwards into the waves,
the fish teeming out of the water
at his head, locking their joints
together once again. And I will
finally be alone. Then—and only then—
I will wade out into the dark
waters. There will be a storm
coughing to life on the horizon—
to ride the waves here
the surfers must first
paddle into them—
there’s one now,
whose head goes under,