Reading Water

Derek JG Williams
| poetry


Easier than writing
in air, but not impossible.
A woman at the Chinese temple
grieved for her lost son.
She wrote the story
on the landing of a wide set
of steps, stacks of wet
characters spilled precisely.
My guide translated
as we passed.
When we returned
the woman was gone.
Her grief gone too,
no mystery to that
I try to write like her, in water.
The words go, and stay
gone—sons get lost,
and daughters too.
A boat scraped by rocks
rocks dangerously.
Yes, it’s impossible
to know deep water.
The bottom reveals
nothing, it won’t speak
aloud its lines—quiet
in the cloudy green-grey
theater. Moody, it moves on
as I move across its surface,
suggesting what’s beneath:
contours of a rocky point
dropping off into a channel;
a weed bed, tendrils
reaching sunward, yellow
flowers in a glassy phase
chopped by wind.
I think of the woman’s
loss evaporating. When
the rain falls it leaves
me wet; it pools in the tough
yellow bulbs of flowers,
spilling into the lake
as I row toward shore.

Derek JG Williams puts words into rows both long and short. He’s a graduate of the MFA program at UMass Boston and a 2016 Blacksmith House Emerging Writer. His poems are published or forthcoming in PlumeBest New Poets, Vinyl, Forklift OhioPrairie Schooner, and New Ohio Review, among others. Derek currently lives in Arizona.

Mary, Mary