Leslie Williams

of Newton, Masschusetts

Winner of the Robert H. Winner Memorial Award in 2010

In Me As the Swans


Not embittered
even while freezing
to the ice of their own lakes.

The night I was leaving for Madrid
into the noisy party a dazzling
friend-of-a-friend walked in: I want so much
(as a couple of kids on the dance floor want)
to slow the tempo, hold there longer,
to feel that seedly longing
to be pressed into the soil,
or that little lift the mothers get
when stocking larders, even now,
vestige of the primitive urge
to be provided for and to provide.

I went alone to see that balcony
in Verona, after the Roman dramas and luxuries
above the Spanish Steps, when an elegant
footman brought a pack of Reds on a silver
tray and all but smoked them for you,
after your towels had warmed in London's best
hotel, whose name I can't remember and am kind of glad,
glad now for the rest of empty August and
the convent hostel's eleven o'clock curfew,
glad now when I go to the distinguished dinners
that I have stood alone
wondering at illuminated books,
looking at Woolf's spectacles under glass
or standing under Bourgeois's giant spider
at the Tate—at times the best kept universe
was my own, no interceding docents
or guided tours, but a riverine serendipitous
wandering—waif, naïf.

                                   I liked the light enormously so why
did I obey the bell that called me in?

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David St. John on Leslie Williams

What a compelling combination of elegance and intimacy informs Leslie Williams superb gathering of poems. Both her humor and her passionate engagement with the world allow us to experience the acuity of her observations and the generosity of her spirit. These poems stand as nothing less than a metaphysics of daily reflection, and each poem emerges as its own superb accomplishment.

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