Erosion: Poetry by Phillip Brian Williams


As you die, a withering
monument, I gather you pore
by pore into my arms.
Collect you and rock the crown
of your offering—night sweats, your
thinning frame, you slipping
through my fingers like battered clay.

I count clusters of onyx petals
inking your flesh,
recumbent roses of night. I soothe
your scoured creases, seams
of skin once soaked
by my spiral tongue

Tomorrow-touch my palm
Map out a path through
valences of silence outlined
in your clairvoyant hands
I will cradle your evicting
house, trembling in its own
crevasse of winter

To barely recognize you by memory alone (body
too quietly disfigured to recollect what once was)
must be suffered through bushel by piercing
bushel, the thorny foliage of failure un-evidenced
in Time’s passage. This hospice allows nothing
private. Not your awakening nor your dreams

of insipid lovers, siblings to
your embattlement. Imperfect
vessels thoroughly wrapped
in secrecy. Had words extended
between lovers like stable batons perhaps
this visit would be innocuous speech
suspended from your earlobe. But regret
is a spoiled child, taffied fingers perched
in his mouth, rotten.

We shall hush this child, embrace
this moment, place
it in an hour glass
sift it to and fro
Watch each infinitesimal grain
fall dismally between cells
as if the final sand
was the hand clenching your collar
demanding you hold on
for another go round

—Phillip Brian Williams

A Chicago, Illinois, resident, Phillip Brian Williams received his BA in English from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He is a Cave Canem fellow with poetry published on

First appeared in the December 2008 issue.