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06 | 16 : Tony Williams


Photo by John Williams

For the second of our poems from the 16 August Fruitmarket readers, Tony Williams is and isn’t in a listening mood:


I didn’t mean to overhear
the scrape of chair legs on the floor
and sour breath of the bored, enshadowed janitor
nor how he conflabbed on the stairs
(it echoed in the squarish well)
with an ingrate from HR, how you
were falling basementwards, towards
the ferret-sprainted woods where mats
of needles are being disturbed and skulls
of foxes, badgers, falcons, bats and shrews
emerge like eggshells of the news.
I heard the round of sirens in the night,
the airless click of satellites.
I heard the muffle and the timely knock,
the seconds jerking round the clock,
lonely and insomniac,
the sound of no one coming back
to fill and free the lock. I heard
a drunk man shouting COCK
and shrunken voices answering No,
his loiter in the orange yard
and how he turned to go
against a wind that breathed your name.
I heard the water cooler’s hiccup send
a bubble of the future up,
an iciness to be my friend,
and how beyond the traffic’s burr
your cough performed a Pyrenees of grief
upon a screen – as I was dropping off – I heard,
between the dog barks and the Word of God,
a vixen’s scalp-contracting scream.
I heard the silence of the room.
I saw the silence of the moon.


Tony Williams’s The Corner of Arundel Lane and Charles Street (Salt, 2009) was shortlisted for the Aldeburgh First Collection, Portico, and Michael Murphy Memorial Prizes. His sonnet sequence All the Rooms of Uncle’s Head (Nine Arches Press, 2011) was a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice. He teaches creative writing at Northumbria University.


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