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Wake by Spencer Williams

Among the waste of trees perched near the water tower, songbirds choke
on strands of brown hair, mistaking them for worms. As we climb
towards the base, we smell them in the branches, wet and chewed through,
riddled with lice. At the clearing, I turn to you
and ask about your life, but you’re quick. You catch how I’m asking about
death. The lover who was there, then not.

Even when the end arrived, I couldn’t picture it you say, as if I know.

This is where I am now: watching you cup your hands
around a pair of soiled wings we found together, on the edge of the footpath.
You comb the shapes as though, with just two fingers, you could right
the splintered bones. But one splint pricks the skin and bleeds it.
I say here, suck your new hole clean.

I do not mean to.

I want to tell you about me so badly. About my trip to the ER
and how insignificant it felt to go home.

The sun was out at the wake, you say, remember that smell?

Yes. Dark fabrics turning wet because even our limbs were in mourning.
In the fog of you, my fingers curl around aura. The sun did not come
here with us today. From where we stand now, your town is a stretch
of wooden blocks. I heard you rarely leave the house.

A friend we share remarked: it’s like he’s hiding. I don’t ask from what.

You tell me: I roll over sometimes thinking I’m going to see the top of his head.
Makes me feel stupid
. I try to picture it, a still life with pillow and scalp,

but it’s a difficult image to keep, and not mine, so I don’t.

About the Poet

Spencer Williams

Spencer Williams is the author of the chapbook Alien Pink (The Atlas Review, 2017) and the forthcoming full-length collection TRANZ (Four Way Books 2024). Her work has appeared in Literary Hub, IndieWire, Polygon, and Poets.org. She is currently a PhD student in poetics at SUNY, Buffalo. This poem first appeared in slightly different form in the Buffalo-based literary magazine Peach Mag and will be in Spencer’s forthcoming collection TRANZ.

Related Event

    • Spencer Williams will join poets Tracy Fuad and Julianne Neely for an evening of readings at 7 p.m. on Friday, February 23 at Just Buffalo Literary Center, 468 Washington St., 2nd floor, in Buffalo. Books by all three poets will be available for purchase at the reading from Fitz Books.

The Poem of the Week feature is curated by literary legacy awardee R.D. Pohl.