They Call This

- 1936-2015

          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.

More by C. K. Williams

The Gaffe

1

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 for my
   unpardonable affront?

I'm a child then, yet already I've composed this conscience-beast, who
   harries me:
is there anything else I can say with certainty about who I was, except that I, 
   that he,

could already draw from infinitesimal transgressions complex chords
   of remorse,
and orchestrate ever-undiminishing retribution from the hapless rest
   of myself?


2

The son of some friends of my parents has died, and my parents, paying
    their call,
take me along, and I'm sent out with the dead boy's brother and some 
   others to play.

We're joking around, and words come to my mind, which to my 
   amazement are said.
How do you know when you can laugh when somebody dies, your brother dies?

is what's said, and the others go quiet, the backyard goes quiet,
   everyone stares,
and I want to know now why that someone in me who's me yet not me let
   me say it.

Shouldn't he have told me the contrition cycle would from then be ever
   upon me, 
it didn't matter that I'd really only wanted to know how grief ends,
   and when?


3

I could hear the boy's mother sobbing inside, then stopping, sobbing
   then stopping.
Was the end of her grief already there? Had her someone in her told her
   it would end?

Was her someone in her kinder to her, not tearing at her, as mine did, 
   still does, me, 
for guessing grief someday ends? Is that why her sobbing stopped 
   sometimes?

She didn't laugh, though, or I never heard her. How do you know when
   you can laugh?
Why couldn't someone have been there in me not just to accuse me, but
   to explain?

The kids were playing again, I was playing, I didn't hear anything more
   from inside.
The way now sometimes what's in me is silent, too, and sometimes, 
   though never really, forgets.