by C.K. Williams
A student, a young woman in a fourth-floor hallway of her lycee,
perched on the ledge of an open window chatting with friends between classes;
a teacher passes and chides her, “Be careful, you might fall,” almost banteringly chides her,
“You might fall,”
and the young woman, 18, a girl really,
though she wouldn’t think that, as brilliant as she is, first in her class, and “Beautiful, too,” she’s often told,
smiles back, and leans into the open window, which wouldn’t even be open if it were winter —
if it were winter someone would have closed it (“Close it!”) —
leans into the window, farther, still smiling,
farther and farther, though it takes less time than this, really an instant, and lets herself fall.
A casual impulse, a fancy, never thought of until now, hardly thought of even now
No, more than impulse or fancy, the girl knows what she’s doing,
the girl means something, the girl means to mean,
because it occurs to her in that instant, that beautiful or not, bright yes or no, she’s not who she is,
she’s not the person she is,
and the reason, she suddenly knows, is that there’s been so much premeditation
where she is, so much plotting and planning,
there’s hardly a person where she is, or if there is, it’s not her, or not wholly her,
it’s a self inhabited, lived in by her,
and seemingly even as she thinks it she knows what’s been missing:
not premeditation but grace, a kind of being in the world spontaneously, with grace.
Weightfully upon me was the world.
Weightfully this self which graced the world yet never wholly itself.
Weightfully this self which weighed upon me, the release from which is what I desire and what I achieve.
And the girl remembers, in this infinite instant already now so many times divided,
the sadness she felt once, hardly knowing she felt it,
to merely inhabit herself.
Yes, the girl falls, absurd to fall,
even the earth with its compulsion to take unto itself all that falls must know that falling is absurd,
yet the girl falling isn’t myself, or she is myself, but a self I took of my own volition unto myself. Forever. With grace.
Carbon Waiting for Godot
Before I begin, I just want to acknowledge how incredibly beautiful the poem I chose for my intro is. You can find C.K. Williams performing this and other poems on YouTube and it would be worth your time.
I heard on the radio the sound of a baby and its father screaming together in agony-colored cacophony. I heard it with my ears and also with my lungs and my stomach and my eyes and I know that’s how I heard it because my ears tried to shut and my lungs expelled air and my stomach seized and my eyes filled with liquid. Very fast.
I know that I am a special snowflake because otherwise how would I be so smart? So sensitive and so perceptive and so interesting and so talented? My individuality is evidenced by my very existence and it’s all so justified by the fact that it simply is. Of course I’m here, and thank goodness I’m here. Before I was here, I was carbon waiting for Godot. I was in the ether awaiting my spectacular individuality. And yes, of course we all are. We are all carbon waiting for Godot before we are all special snowflakes.
My lungs heard a baby scream and I knew what to do: I took a big cleansing breath. But suddenly I couldn’t take a breath big enough. I filled up my lungs again and again, knowing that one of those times the exhale would bring relief and assurance that I am okay because I deserve to be okay because I am a special snowflake. I just kept trying and soon I was gulping down air and then I was doing a thing that’s called hyperventilating. But I knew what to do. I have a pill for hyperventilating because there is a pill for every trouble for people who deserve not to have any troubles. The pill has two Xs imprinted on it, like the eyes of dead people in cartoons. Pretty soon I was sleeping.
I told people how my lungs heard a baby scream and they told me not to endorse war. War! I’m not talking about war, I’m talking about special snowflakes and their carbon. I’m talking about being guilty. Guilty of having lungs and ears and painted toenails. Guilty for that smile I just smiled at a joke that doesn’t mean anything. Guilty for swallowing a pill rather than my own tongue.
I do not believe in war. I definitely believe in peace. From carbon waiting for Godot, to a tadpole and a big magnetic orb, to pain and bright light, to a mouth and ears and lungs and a stomach all made of star stuff. I believe in peace and beauty and enormous individualities all justified by the fact that they are here because they are.
I endorse time travel. I endorse unscreams and rebirths and anti-tragedy. I endorse only rational dualities, where if one person is pleasantly surprised at getting free french fries from a restaurant, there is no other person dying in agony.
It doesn’t matter that somebody did it on purpose. It is just another nonsensical duality that somebody destroyed snowflakes on purpose while somebody else put out a house fire. Somebody else ordered a milkshake and somebody else donated an organ and somebody else developed a tumor and somebody else got a new puppy and somebody else fell out of a window.
Now there are countless enormous individualities hanging dead in the toxic air. It matters exactly as much as it doesn’t matter.