Tuesday, September 22, 2015

C. K. Williams: "Clay Out of Silence"


in tribute
C. K. Williams
(1936 - 2015)

chances are we will sink quietly back
into oblivion without a ripple
we will go back into the face
down through the mortars as though it hadn’t happened

earth: I’ll remember you
you were the mother you made pain
I’ll grind my thorax against you for the last time
and put my hand on you again to comfort you

sky: could we forget?
we were the same as you were
we couldn’t wait to get back sleeping
we’d have done anything to be sleeping

and trees angels for being thrust up here
and stones for cracking in my bare hands
because you foreknew
there was no vengeance for being here

when we were flesh we were eaten
when we were metal we were burned back
there was no death anywhere but now
when we were men when we became it


"Clay Out of Silence" by C. K. Williams. Text as published in Selected Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014). Hear the poet read this poem here.

Curator's note: We mark the passing of another mindfulness poet. The award-winning C. K. Williams, whose writing expressed strong social conscience, died September 20th at the age of 78 from multiple myeloma. In an interview with PBS Newhour in 2000, Williams described the writing process as "a kind of fusion of will and submission and inspiration that’s quite marvelous, where something sometimes will—at its very best—seem to be happening through you and to you, rather than you making it happen."

Art credit: Portrait of C. K. Williams by Oliver Morris.



  1. Thank you for sharing the "note." The poem is evidence but hearing the artist describe the process so accurately is a lesson in itself.

    1. You're welcome. Don't know about you, but I appreciate hearing creative people speak to their creative process! There are often life lessons, not just artistic lessons, in what they say.


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