Saturday Poem


Vas en Afrique! Back to Africa! the butcher we used to patronize in the
Rue Cadet market,
beside himself, shrieked at a black man in an argument the rest of the
import of which I missed
but that made me anyway for three years walk an extra street to a shop
of definitely lower quality
until I convinced myself that probably I'd misunderstood that other thing
and could come back.
Today another black man stopped, asking something that again I didn't
catch, and the butcher,
who at the moment was unloading his rotisserie, slipping the chickens
off their heavy spit,
as he answered—how get this right?—casually but accurately brandished
the still-hot metal,
so the other, whatever he was there for, had subtly to lean away a little
so as not to flinch.

C.K. Williams
from Selected Poems
Harper Collins, 1994