Miller Williams

M
Miller Williams
Going Deaf
No matter how she tilts her head to hear
she sees the irritation in their eyes.
She knows how they can read a small rejection,
a little judgment, in every What did you say?
So now she doesn’t say What? or Come again?
She lets the syllables settle, hoping they form
some sort of shape that she might recognize.
When they don’t, she smiles with everyone else,
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For a Girl I Know about to Be a Woman
Because you’ll find how hard it can be
to tell which part of your body sings,
you never should dally with any young man
who does any one of the following things:

tries to beat all the yellow lights;
says, “Big deal!” or “So what?”
more than seven times a day;
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June Twenty, Three Days After
When I was a boy and a man would die
we’d say a verse when the hearse went by
one car two car three car four
someone knocking on the devil’s door.

I smoked all night myself awake
and saw the lights and the day break.
When the sun was done with the final star
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Of History and Hope
We have memorized America,
how it was born and who we have been and where.
In ceremonies and silence we say the words,
telling the stories, singing the old songs.
We like the places they take us. Mostly we do.
The great and all the anonymous dead are there.
We know the sound of all the sounds we brought.
The rich taste of it is on our tongues.
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A Tenth Anniversary Photograph, 1952
Look at their faces. You know it all.
They married the week he left for the war.
Both are gentle, intelligent people,
as all four of their parents were.

They’ve never talked about much
except the children. They love each other
but never wondered why they married
or had the kids or stayed together.
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The Curator
We thought it would come, we thought the Germans would come,
were almost certain they would. I was thirty-two,
the youngest assistant curator in the country.
I had some good ideas in those days.

Well, what we did was this. We had boxes
precisely built to every size of canvas.
We put the boxes in the basement and waited.

When word came that the Germans were coming in,
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If Ever There Was One
She could tell he loved her. He wanted her there
sitting in the front pew when he preached.
He liked to watch her putting up her hair
and ate whatever she cooked and never broached

the subject of the years before they met.
He was thoughtful always. He let her say
whether or not they did anything in bed
and tried to learn the games she tried to play.
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