Fragment

A weekly poem, read by the author.
July 3 1996 3:30 AM

Fragment

This time the hold-up man didn't know a video-sound camera hidden up in a corner

was recording what was before it or more likely he didn't care, opening up with his pistol,

not saying a word, on the clerk you see blurredly falling and you hear--I keep hearing--

crying, "God, God," in that voice I was always afraid existed within us, the voice that knows

beyond illusion the irrevocability of death, beyond any dream of being not mortally injured--

"You're just falling asleep, someone will save you, you'll wake again, loved ones beside you. ..."

Nothing of that: even torn by the flaws in the tape it was a voice that knew it was dying,

knew it was being--horrible--slaughtered, all that it knew and aspired to instantly voided;

such hopeless, astonished pleading, such overwhelmed, untempered pity for the self dying;

no indignation, no passion for justice, only woe, woe, woe, as he felt himself falling,

even falling knowing already he was dead, and how much I pray to myself I want not, ever,

to know this, how much I want to ask again why I must, with such perfect, detailed precision,

know this, this anguish, this agony for a departing self wishing only to stay, to endure,

knowing all the while that, having known, I always will know this torn, singular voice

of a soul calling "God!" as it sinks back through the darkness it came from, cancelled, annulled.

C.K. Williams' Flesh and Blood (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry in 1987. His latest book, Selected Poems (Farrar, Straud & Giroux), was published in 1994.