Thursday, September 24, 2015

C K Williams -- Three Mile Island

A poet whose work I have long enjoyed, C K Williams  (1936-1915), died a few days ago.  (You may find a generous sample of his poems online -- for example at and  Williams is a poet whose writing does not tend toward mathematics but his very fine poem "Tar" (about the Three Mile Island nuclear plant crisis of 1979, a year when I lived in Pennsylvania not far away) has a few numbers.  I present below the first stanza of  "Tar" and, beneath it, a link to the rest of the poem.

from   Tar        by C. K. Williams

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 away the leaden layers of asbestos paper and 
       disassemble the disintegrating drains.
After half a night of listening to the news, wondering how to know 
       a hundred miles downwind
if and when to make a run for it and where, then a coming bolt 
       awake at seven
when the roofers we’ve been waiting for since winter sent 
       their ladders shrieking up our wall,
we still know less than nothing: the utility company continues 
       making little of the accident,
the slick federal spokesmen still have their evasions in some 
       semblance  of order.
Surely we suspect now we’re being lied to, but in the meantime,
       there are the roofers,
setting winch-frames, sledging rounds of tar apart, and there I am,
       on the curb across, gawking.
          . . .                                              The full text of "Tar" is available here.

Finally, a poetic and paradoxical quote from another great who died recently, from baseball's Yogi Berra  (1925-2015):  “If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.”

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