poem index

About this Poem 

"I’ve had motor scooters of my own over the years, but this one, which I stopped beside on my way to my studio when I lived in Paris, was my favorite. And the mother, garbed in a helmet, so recently a purely masculine accouterment, became wearing it more protective, more touching, more the mythical all-powerful mother of the unconscious towards whom we long."
—C. K. Williams

They Call This

C. K. Williams, 1936

          A young mother on a motor scooter stopped at a traffic light, her little son perched 
on the ledge between her legs; she in a gleaming helmet, he in a replica of it, smaller, but 
the same color and just as shiny.  His visor is swung shut, hers is open.
          As I pull up beside them on my bike, the mother is leaning over to embrace the child, 
whispering something in his ear, and I’m shaken, truly shaken, by the wish, the need, to 
have those slim strong arms contain me in their sanctuary of affection.   
          Though they call this regression, though that implies a going back to some other 
state and this has never left me, this fundamental pang of being too soon torn from a bliss 
that promises more bliss, no matter that the scooter’s fenders are dented, nor that as it 
idles it pops, clears its throat, growls.

Copyright © 2013 by C. K. Williams. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on December 11, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

C. K. Williams

C. K. Williams

Born on November 4, 1936, C. K. Williams won the National Book Award, the Pulitzer for poetry, and served as a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets

by this poet



Click the icon above to listen to this audio poem.


If that someone who's me yet not me yet who judges me is always with me, 
as he is, shouldn't he have been there when I said so long ago that thing 
   I said?

If he who rakes me with such not trivial shame for minor sins now were
   there then,
shouldn't he have warned me he'd even now devastate me
The first morning of Three Mile Island: those first disquieting, uncertain,			
          mystifying hours.
All morning a crew of workmen have been tearing the old decrepit roof
          off our building,
and all morning, trying to distract myself, I've been wandering out to 
          watch them
as they hack