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Constant Williams: California Poets Part 7, Three Poems

Constant Williams

July 1st, 2024

California Poets: Part VII

Constant Williams

Three Poems

Seeing Double


I see myself in all the men

standing outside the 7-Eleven

with nothing to buy, or

by the bus stop waiting

for something to happen.

What they’re waiting for

nobody knows, not even them,

not even God, who sits quietly

on Spring Street on his throne

of trash. I think I’m capable

of very little, aside from swaying in line

for a bottle of Wild Turkey at 1:55am,

nostrils flaring, seeing double,

waiting for someone to say a thing

that never comes—the man in front of me

today at the same liquor store, 1,285 days,

30,831 minutes removed. Come on,

he mutters as the cashier drags

the barcode slowly over the scanner,

I don’t have all day. 

Everything Dissolves


I’m guided by shining tabs of starlight

that fizz away into the murky pitch,


guided over eyewatering seas of amber

bourbon, always rising and never enough


to fill the insatiable hollow of the world.

Obol on my tongue, I ferry myself,


for I was always the one that must

bring myself across this place—


the arms emerging from the waves

holding shivering tattoo machines,


marking at my ankles—the rippling

laughter of psych ward patients


and dead boys floating on their backs

blowing loud puffs of reefer smoke


like breaching whales. My flesh

will dampen until it sloughs


from the bone, until

I’m small enough.


There is a desert on the other side,

one that I could walk for a lifetime.


A desert is beautiful for its dryness,

its absence of liquid—


in liquid, everything dissolves. Even

this grandiose body. Even your name.


Before shoving-off, I was handed a recovery

token. Open your mouth, the oldtimers had said,


place this on your tongue. 

When it melts, you can drink again.

Negative Space


Garden of flowers

shaped by absence

of ink on sleeved skin.

Face busted out

of bronze and pressed

into snow, removed,

leaves its imprint.

Death mask. Hollow

implication. The child

within me is wearing

a man-suit, every inch

covered. Claustrophobic.

Within him is hollow

like a Russian doll,

its last and smallest piece

missing. Cartography

of echoes, quarried air.

In the nothing

of negative space

is a moment absent,

a period of time,

a candle all lit up

with what has

already melted.

Author Bio:

Constant Laval Williams is from Los Angeles, CA. He studied Creative Writing at the University of Southern California, where he received the Beau J. Boudreaux Poetry Award. He is a 2024 graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Lana Turner, Prairie Schooner, Sixth Finch, and Blackbird, among many others.


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