By Lori Williams
I gather shrimp, octopus, basil, clams, tomatoes,
garlic, cream. I clasp my knife, a bridge to life, slice cloves
slimmer than the hopes I hold on to with every morning sip
of coffee. I split the shrimps' spine, pick out the long black thread
of its existence. It feels nice to smoosh on a paper towel,
watch the darkness pile up, cram it into the trash. If only.
Calamari is interesting to cut - all those little legs with their stories,
those eyes begging a neat divorce, ashamed. Sweet squid,
I swear I didn't look at you as I severed your limbs. My four keep me
humble. I think my son is on drugs. Chopping tomatoes is numbing,
I could do it for hours. Plums, only plums, bright red eggs made for dicing.
The knife slides through the thin skin -- as I watch the juice spurt out,
the seeds, I remember his birth and I chop and chop and chop
until the cutting board is full of miniscule
pieces so I start again, because the recipe calls for thick chunks.
I think my son is on drugs you know, so I saute garlic in olive oil
until golden, that color of summers in the Adirondacks when little boys
with dark hair turned blond, and mother was someone who shined
like a new penny. And I cook and cook, stir it all with grandma's
wooden spoon while I state as a fact that I think my son is on drugs - say it
to the frying pan, the pasta pot, the cutting board. Yes, I think he is.
© Lori Williams 2007
Previously published in Avatar Review
I first encountered the work of New York poet Lori Williams on MySpace, back in its heyday. In those days it was full of poets and we soon found our way to each other, a community within a community. So exciting!
Most of us, after leaving when MySpace changed, have reconnected on facebook but it isn’t quite the same. MySpace was a networking-and-blogging space, closed enough not to count as ‘prior publication’, so we got to read and comment on each other’s writing (much like Poets United, in fact). I instantly fell in love with Lori’s poetry and have never fallen out again. We recognised each other, too, as kindred spirits — one of those true and lasting online friendships, for many of which I must thank the old MySpace.
As a poet, she has quite a range, but always her voice is clear, accessible, strong and honest. She has the capacity to look life in the face. Many of her poems are about motherhood, and other relationships including family. She writes very sexy love poems, too!
This particular poem that I’ve chosen, I loved so much when I first read it that I asked her permission to share it with my writing students, as something to learn from and aspire to. It’s outstanding, but there are many I could have chosen. I’d like to have written anything and everything Lori has done.
For her background, I can’t do better than quote her bio, which is both informative and succinct:
Lori is a born and bred New Yorker, who works as a Legal Assistant in the publishing field. She has been writing since childhood and still has her first published poem, which was in her elementary school newsletter. Since then she has been published in numerous journals and ezines, but that first 8 line poem remains her pride and joy. She is the mother of an adult son and three cats, is impatient, emotional and witty, loves cooking and is an animal advocate, who will start volunteering at the ASPCA next month.
Her first chapbook, Woman on the Brink, was published in December 2011. You can buy the book from the publisher, erbacci-press.
The blurbs say:
Lori Williams writes about ordinary, everyday living in a most extraordinary way. In her authentic, unique and richly flavored voice, she presents the world as she experiences it, holding nothing back. Her alluring style invites the reader inside the moments she so vividly captures. No smoke and mirrors for Williams. Her poetry is crystal clear, well-paced and pitch-perfect. She writes with empathy, tenderness and always with heart. - Barbara Moore, co-editor of Spiracle Journal.
With a unique softness that reminds one of a whisper, the poems of Lori Williams read as the painful, brilliant diary we all wish we could write. They speak of mistakes and tragedies with a voice that is strictly confessional, but never self-involved or introverted. Her poems explore the more painful aspects of life with a clear eye that any writer would envy. - Jonathan Penton, Editor of Unlikely Stories.org and Unlikely Stories of the Third Kind.
I’d have to agree with all of that. I always see Lori as the very urban poet she is, but in fact her work far transcends location.
She has had two poems on 9/11 published online here and here (you have to scroll to find them). A recent publication is in Spiracle Journal.
If you’re there (and who isn’t?) she now posts new work on a special facebook page.
Poems and photos used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remain the property of the copyright holders (usually their authors).