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Poems by Athol Williams

His Gentle Breath

Dedicated to Keorapetse Kgositsile

His gentle breath gave shape to the deflated –
we who stood like waving rubber figures along
the highway – falling, folding, fading, choked
by the large boot standing on our necks – but his
insistent breath returned our shape, our hope,
our belief in greatness; inspired, we clambered tall.

And now that the river of his breath has run dry,
and we again face a falling, folding, fading plight,
his words, those rays of light that flew on the back
of his gentle fire, reignite our spirit, returning
our bones, our muscle, our magnificence,
such that we will never lose our shape.


When It Rains

Bullets strike our metal walls, bombs batter our roof
of patched-up board and plastic sheets, damping our cries.

Like roaches, like rats, the devil’s streams invade our porous fort,
to join our tears, to soak our rags, to flood

our little piece of hell. We fill the trailer on our backs
and load the car in our arms, and run before the liquid

bulldozers roar. This curse, our offering, to answer prayers
of those with taps and gardens and swimming pools.


The Black Poetess Says

The virus of privilege thrives even among those
who carry the #metoo hashtag on their thighs.
Where some tell their stories from cocoons
of serviced bedroom suites, most lie awake
at night in jaw-clenched silence, in tiny rooms
decorated with large reminders. These women
continue to sleep there, packed in tight
with their demons, for without them, who
will guard the door, who will pay the bills?