J L Williams

JL Williams
JL Williams was born in New Jersey and studied at Wellesley College and on the MLitt in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow. Her poetry has been published in journals including Poetry Wales, The Wolf, Shearsman, Fulcrum and Stand. Her first collection of poems, Condition of Fire, was published by Shearsman Books in 2011.

Listen to J L Williams’ poem ‘The Wisdom of Stone’

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The Wisdom of Stone

Walking through the alleyway of wet light, footsteps echo off the cobbles.

Your mind is red with the image of the dead woman, her head caved in with a stone.  A stone the size of a cobble, like the ones you are walking on.

A stone has no choice in the matter of how it is used.  A stone has no thoughts.  A stone has no dreams.

A stone has no heart, never knows the beating of its heart.
A stone has no shame.

There was a man thought fossils were another kind of life.
One who thought stones were nature’s first attempts at man – found stones the shape of feet, fingers, livers, lungs.  Stones like eyes.

Is it raining?  Is it cold?  Is the haar crawling up from the sea?

Deep, deep in the sea, where strange creatures comb the sand with their pale fins.

Dirt is what we become, dust, the stuff of stones.

Footsteps, the shadow of a man?  Breathing?  Or is it the wind blowing gently over trash in the bins?

Walking through the alleyway of wet light, footsteps echo off the cobbles.

Your mind is heavy with the notion that granite is formed from the cooling of molten rock, that the mountains have these cold memories of volcanoes for hearts.

The land is made of bodies.

The land we walk was once under the sea.

When you were little your mother took you to the forest.  She placed a small hammer in your hand, pointed to the rock, showed you how to chip it, to flake away its skin.  You hardly understood what you were looking for, but knew it was life.

A man’s face appears in the wash of light fanning from a hazy streetlamp.  The lines in his face are deep, as if they have been carved.  He is not familiar to you, yet you see in him every man, every face.  You stumble.  The cobbles beneath your foot are slippery.  You twist your ankle.  The pavement swings in front of your eyes – a tarry lick of concrete poured over a crack in the road.  Curling staircases visible in pieces where windows hold the pressure of stone at bay for the sake of a view.

A hand nearly brushes your hand.

Walking through the alleyway of wet light, footsteps echo off the cobbles.

Your mind is white with the knowledge of what silence is, what having no breath is, with the understanding of stone.

An end in sight, like the opening of a cave.  Pressure on your neck, your forehead.  Is this what it is to be stone?  Stepped on, crushed, hammered.

Minute details become very clear.  A woman behind blurry glass leaning on the counter of a takeaway, her strands of blonde hair curling in the steam from an open dishwasher.
A discarded coffee cup blowing across uneven cobbles.

Plastic bags caught in the branches of an unexpected tree.

Stones know that, like all moments, this one will pass.  Your comprehension, your pain, the weakening of your hand tugging at a man’s arms taut with the strain of taking your life, this will all pass.

Walking through the alleyway of wet light, footsteps echo off the cobbles.


Recorded, edited and produced by Laura Cameron-Lewis and Andrew Eaton-Lewis of (g)Host City. www.virtualfestival.org and mastered by Hamish Brown.



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