Learning Williams

W. E. Butts

Learning Williams
for Kevin Cahill

What did I really learn that quiet afternoon
in a classroom of students, heads on their desks,

or turned absently toward autumn light slanting
through the window blinds?  Perhaps the idea

of chickens clucking after a quick rain made me, birdlike,
shift with nervous attention from my perch at the desk,

as our teacher read aloud the poem none of us knew
was famous, the small pond collected in the wheelbarrow’s basin

clear and glistening, the wheelbarrow farmhouse red,
a simple object in the natural world of changing weather.

I had come here an outcast, a kid in trouble but one who loved what words could
do, how they silenced poverty and shame,

and showed me things for what they truly were.  And listening
to the teacher’s careful recitation, each word and syllable precise,

the scene exact, I saw and heard a shape and meaning.