The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Constant L. Williams

I Hear America Singing 

October 1, 2017

Today, death didn’t bring its scythe to Las Vegas.
Instead, it sat in an armchair, chainsmoking American Spirits
and fidgeting with a $100 chip from the Mandalay Bay casino.
Red-hot shell-casings sang through air like sunbeams to shadows.

The rest is known. The rest was not surprising to the young,
those whose milk-bottles were once filled with unwelcome
knowledge. Who grew older being forever told that death
is outside, that death is everywhere, that death has wings.

Fear is as American as baseball, as country-song baritones,
as the right to bear arms—today nobody has to scream
fire in a crowded theater when there’s already a voice
in each manic moviegoer’s mind crooning it to them.

What is unknown is the harbinger. The mind of the man
that inspires wild stampedes at the mere rumor of bullets—
the gifter of lead, the reaper of reason, of psyche, of spirit—
reverting us to the grinding, primordial creatures of our past.

Such a bewildering unknown. A sick, sad unknown. Twisted,
weak and terrible. Maybe language preys on mankind. Maybe
consciousness isn’t the gift we thought it was. Maybe some
of us feel so strange in our bodies that we’re urged to take
others’ in some vain attempt to be connected to this earth—

when they’re finished, they lift up their shirt, expecting to see
an umbilical cord coiling down from their fleshy stomach
into the firm, steady soil. Instead, they are bare and vulnerable.
O my body, they think before they pull the trigger, O America.



Constant L. Williams

Ravenous Normal





Your sword has devoured your prophets
like a ravenous lion. –Jeremiah 2:30


With his elbows on his knees,
his head on his calloused palms,
a gravedigger sits loudly panting
by the shovel and the freshly dug graves,
the dark earth waiting openly to receive.

At one of the daily funerals
a row of soldiers level their rifles
with the sky. As the shots burst-out
the funeral goers pile expectantly into
the graves like reasonless corpses.

Here—a boy with a toy pistol is playing
cowboys and anyone who is in the way.
A mother is weeping while her
blinking newborn lies silently
on a pile of bullets.

Here—a man in a suit turns to see
a muzzle inches from his face. He looks
the shooter in the eyes but sees nothing,
so shrugging, he rests his forehead
against the warm metal.

Under a flagpole someone looks
at their watch and sighs, then
lowers the banner to half-mast.
The guns do nothing but sit and wait
for a hand. Because they are guns.




CONSTANT L. WILLIAMS is a Los Angeles-born poet with ties to Paris, France. His poetry has appeared in The American Journal of Poetry, Words Dance, Paris/Atlantic and others. For more information please visit



Previous | Next