Poems by Maria Williams-Russell

How We Live

War sits across from me in the tub.

He has not said a word, but fountains

spit through his blurred teeth

and that incessant dark grinning

make it impossible to read.

I always retreat, place the damp page

between me and cracks in the porcelain.

Or slip beneath to listen for intruders in the pipes.

We are married many long years now.

He has seen me shiver and pace

and raise a knife against his camouflage.

Some days, it feels he might tire of me

and then I am even more a widow.

Other days, I think he pours my tea.


The Leopard And The Shovel

Say there are two things — a leopard and a shovel.

The leopard is the chaser

while the shovel desperately hops

on its one handle through the old house.

Here there are several outcomes:

The leopard pounces, after a few

rounds up and down the stairs,

to find nothing but iron and wood to rub its teeth on.

Or the shovel turns to face the leopard

in a moment of deep anguish

and drops its heavy head, crushing

the leopard’s skull.

Or maybe, they both get bored and walk away.

What if the shovel is love,

the leopard dreaming?

The leopard with her sleek and eyes can never

really know the shovel,

only that there is reason to chase it.

And the shovel so chased by dreaming

can never do its job of digging.

Perhaps I will set fire to the house and watch them

negotiate among the flames.


"The Leopard and the Shovel" was first published in the chapbook A Love Letter To Say There Is No Love, by FutureCycle Press.