Jessica Williams, jazz pianist, composer


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Poetry by Jessica Williams—2012-2015

One form of Love: Eros


















The back operation

The screaming tear in my life
didn't just happen while their slippery blades
swam like strategic sharks through my buttery
skin, that precious animal skin that

held my life

together. I must have been pressing forward with
unaware purpose, blindfolded, through countless
years—through brambled thickets,
over and under fallen trees clothed in priceless moss coats,

crossing angry rivers

like walls, leaning into the winds of sacrifice,
toward that gaping, monstrous chasm—that blind,
gaping wound in the forest floor, bottomless,
sucking light, blacker than space, wider than tunnels

they drive trucks through.



The Magician

I am the corseted young woman
in the white powdered wig
dancing with the tall young man
from Salzburg in the golden brocade waistcoat
to the chamber orchestra assembled
for the King of Prussia in 1778 to commemorate
the newest waltz penned by the greatest talent
of his time, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
We dance with no effort, and though I have
just met this tall young man,
I know somehow that I will never ever
be again without him.
It turns out that the young man knows
exactly the same thing
at exactly the same moment.
And it miraculously comes to pass.

He caresses my bare back with his smooth broad hand
and both of us feel the rapture that only a very few
will ever know or even dream of. It seems impossible,
and yet it comes to pass.

Years later we lie in our bed in Frankfurt
facing each other—he on the left side of the bed,
I on the right—and he caresses my bare back with his now
weathered and calloused but still broad hand.
And, as had happened years before, we are both
overcome with the same rapture.
We have made love nearly every night of our
almost thirty years together, and every time,
we imagine that we hear Mozart’s waltz.

We don’t even know it’s name.
We don’t even know that Wolfgang has died, penniless.

The not-so-young man now bends his head to
ever so gently, softly, sweetly kiss my no-longer
full lips, and we are made new and whole again,
dancing in our shared dream to the music of the
magician that made our love possible.

It all seems so unlikely. I doubt that it happens very often.
But the unlikely young magician and his highly unlikely
waltz, I believe, is still gaily conducting somewhere,
right now, and another couple, just like us, is feeling
just this rapture. It seems impossible,
and yet it still comes to pass.



Death on the Table

I am alive
only by accident,
accident proclaimed by astrological luck or lust—

Stars cold, unfeeling,
unknowing in their weird wend and weft,
feathering my return

on silvered wings that span
centuries. O, that hungry howling void,
never remembered,

never forgotten. Now,
hobbling across cracked broken pebbles on cracked broken feet
sparks in me a token of memory—

Knowing, absolutely knowing that I was there,
there somewhere un-go-able.
Looking now at the goblin light

of the howling moon,
breaking my life
with my own leprous will, my own scabrous hands,

I see I am almost home.
For the very first and very last time,
I live on eternally, by accident.


For now

For now,
I am happy, flowing, and free.
I wasn't always, and again
I may not be.

But now,

while the sun is down
and my husband sleeps a hero's
sleep, my soft, warm hips
long for his awakening.

So I must be good and make a poem.
Common courtesy. This man works

Now I have a tummy-ache
and my eyes are getting bleary.
and the words don't tumble, they
stumble over each other like insects
when you lift a damp rock. I think I'll

wake him up—


Playing in England

I plied my piano in most of the old, cold pleasure castles,
their dedicated walls rising, antique and stoic, from the
mannered and reserved soil of the idea called England.

I'd stand on the edge of my incipient future, alone backstage, as I was
floridly introduced and welcomed to my raft, the platform
of my meticulously self-created tomorrow, nearly drowning in
their oceans of ovation—

from which I was expected to utterly share my self, quite nakedly,
with everyone there in every richly-padded, levered chair.
You should know—right now—that I didn't always want to be there. My blood

and my hands were often thick and sluggish with the cold of the stones.
Most places have rocks. England has only stones . . .
cajoled, christened, fashioned, carved, chiseled stones fitted elegantly together

like Legos by ancient men too massive to imagine. The rolling green svelte
cradling the endless cobbled fences, cottages, taverns, concert halls—
this was Mother England to me. It was deep October there and

everywhere. I'd come to do my magic, change a life or two, ride
proudly on that carpet of improbability that I had woven for my life,
change my colorful well-mannered money

from their re-assuring pounds to our fickle dollars, and
watch, bruised and sated, as the City called Heathrow was swallowed
by the clouds of an only slightly larger London.


I'm learning

I'm learning not to expect a perfect world.

And why am I having these wrinkled, rumpled dreams?

How does a finch feel perched under these claustrophobic clouds?

I keep seeing the numbers on our digital clocks

Anyway. Tomorrow will be better. Even if it isn't, it'll be different.


I am alive

I am alive

Stars cold, unfeeling,

on silvered wings that span

never forgotten. Now,

A Knowing, absolutely knowing that I was there,

of the howling moon,

I see I am almost home.



I remember. I checked something valuable
at the door when I arrived. And

when I entered here
it snowed. A conservative sprinkling
of confectioner’s sugar on a
flash-frozen pound cake.

Being a gypsy, I should have
read the signs like tea leaves:

The vultures gathering tribally on
wintered, faded fences,
called down from circling their very own
anonymously silvered sky,

the thin, keening scree, a ceaseless tinnitus
of my own carrion flesh . . .

the way my own once eagle heart
had migrated up into my throat—
twittering now and then like a
tiny, frightened bird—

barely leaving me room to
to breathe, to swallow, to speak,
keeping me awake long nights with the
fearful, fitful beatings of its useless wings.

I should have started running
a while back. Kept running until the
conifers turned deciduous, until the
hard cracked mantle gave way to

fertile soil the color of a raven’s coat.
But I was frozen solid now, preserved

like a pillar of salt, and mute,
unable to even blink a response to the simplest
question, snared in the gray city-shroud of
gunmetal skies and paralyzed longing that

someone white had named after a long-dead,
defeated Indian Chief. I ask the Great Chief now:

How in the world do you know where to go
when you don’t even know where you are?

The vultures venture closer lately.
A few even chip gingerly at the shell,
the chitinous exoskeleton that contains
what little remains of me.

I remember checking something very valuable
at the door as I entered.
Could I have it back now?




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