Books for Poets | Mailing List | Copyrights | About Us


Poets Online Archive



November 2005

"Peace" by C.K. Williams (from his book Love About Love) looks at a kind of peace, but the word holds different meanings for each of us at different times. In times of war, the absence of war is likely to be the first definition to come to mind. When "we fight for hours", as in his poem, I would guess that tranquility, quiet and harmony in our relations would better fit the bill. We also use the word at times to ask for silence or calm or as a greeting or farewell.What does the word mean to you right now in your life? Is it a place, state of mind, something you long for or have found? Do your thoughts turn political? Use this abstract noun as your starting point and, following Williams' lead, avoid the obvious definitions.

C. K. Williams (Charles Kenneth Williams) was born November 4, 1936 in Newark, NJ.  A graduate of Columbia High School, Maplewood, NJ, Bucknell University and the University of Pennsylvania, he is a professor of at Princeton University.He received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2000 for Repair and the National Book Award for Poetry in 2003 for The Singing.

For more on this prompt and others, visit the Poets Online blog.

52 West Main Street, Sodus, NY, 1969

I remember a chipped, milk chocolate house and
a cocker spaniel who bit a passer-by so my dad
had to shoot him. I remember a green pedal car
and a big tin washtub--our pool in summer.
Bees bumped against the screen in my room,
my sister and I held rabbits under the kitchen sink
and we knew the wide, peeling rail on our sagging
porch—spitting distance from the street—was
the only decent place in town to watch the parades.
I remember my father wrestled the push-mower:
silvery rust-flecked steel spun and spiraled as he
wiped the sweat with a stained white handkerchief.
There was no smell but cut grass, no sound but the
grunts he made; the tender slip of those blades.

Svea Barrett


We’ve eaten the turkey, the spinach soufflé and all the vegetarian stuffing
My cousins, girls, are seated in the living room out of chatting distance.
I see them only once or twice a year.
They are a talented bunch—
A college student, dancers, soccer players/math whizzes
Writers, and an arts manager
I look at their clothes attempting to read their persona.
Two ninth graders look sexy in clothes for a twenty-five year old.
The rest were in assorted sneakers, jeans, and sweatshirts
The clothes don’t say much.
They stare into space over the shoulder of a girl opposite them
Or examine their nails.
To break the silence
I tried general topics of conversation.
Politics. The weather. Not a word.
I didn’t dare try boys.
A call comes from the kitchen
“Who wants to go for a ten- minute -walk on this beautiful night?
Dessert will be ready on our return.”
The idea stirred a frisson of interest. Something physical.
Silently we put on our coats.
The November air is chilled.
We walk in the dark between scruffy woods and cared for homes.
Some run. Some laugh. Some shout.
Now I feel peace, not strained silence, but peace.

Ellen Kaplan


So we know that scientists don't search
for meaning, like theologians
and that peace is a state,
a state of transition,
rather than transitory,
and we know that the animals
don't have a past or future tense
so they don't worry
about where they came from,
the creation,
the origin of the universe,
or where they will be,
after this life,
when everything collapses
so I suppose what I'm asking
is why we carry
this alphabet of sorrows
while darkness takes you with her,
her hand over your eyes.

Pam Milne


My days of woodland solitude,
Where dreams are born, purpose renewed,
Remain my soul’s ambrosial food
And peace is brewed, and peace is brewed.

Upon the wall my saber hangs,
Dreaming of when, unsheathed, it sprang.
A lightning bolt! A dragon’s fang!
For war, it sang! For war it sang!

But now my killing days are done.
My spirit, scarred but unbroken
While nature’s songs heal and strengthen,
Flies to the sun, flies to the sun.

Tomorrow I will greet the snow
In the woods of dappled shadow,
And stroll along the river’s flow
Lost in the glow, lost in the glow.

Memories flow in endless streams
Behind closed eyes in peaceful gleams
I rest on sleep’s feathered moonbeams
Pillowed in dreams, pillowed in dreams.

E.W. Richardson


You were the last,
the one to take a raft
and push off gently
onto the stoic lake,
your feet tapping the surface
just enough to propel you.

We watched from the shore,
squinting into the setting sun.

Could there possibly be more?
We dared to ask.
Why this unattended raft
with its aimless drifting,
its promise of peace?

Peter Goudaman


Even peace is a piece
Like an excerpted aria
Like the migratory geese
Or the tingle of a struck triangle.
She holds a situation
Between her manicured fingers.
You would guess
That she can smoothly
Play with the sand paper of anxiety,
But it is her privilege
To say how can peace be
If the hospital commercial says,
"How do you know,"
"What did they say?"
If they extract only a piece of brain,
What sort of peace is that?"
Three quarters of a life
That's too much of a piece for peace.
There are ads for restless leg disease,
They want you to use the drug
Only if you have a not severe piece
Of the condition
It promises one a piece of peace
It is a cliche
To sit on a cemetery bench
In an old city church yard
For lunch time peace
When eating a sandwich,
It is peace without pain
A foot of hero cut from six.
The filling is composed
Of various elements
With a hopefully pleasing peace,
Mustardy lettuce against bologna
Or tomato against ricotta cheese.
I thought the bites and pieces
Had peace falling below my seat
Till the bold pigeons moved in.
So the elements at peace
Were gathered up and fly away.

Edward N. Halperin


hearing you,
and hating you.

you’re not saying anything at all but every word
every sigh
every pause digs into me,
diamonds dragging across my skin.

as soon as they’re dug in deep,
crystals sliding between my ribs
gracing my lungs
hungering for my heart,
they are ripped out.
your hands smeared in my crimson.

and the gauze you’ve set down
doesn’t take away what’s been done.
it only makes my mind crack and shake,
swelling with tears.

who with dignity forgets fourteen lacerations,
fourteen scars?
I’ll take your offer
I’ve been begging for it
haven’t I?
knees bruised with shame.

I preferred hating you to hating myself.
you have your peace,
where is mine?

Franca Muller


the brown grass resting
at summers end
like those beneath,
eternally posed
the songbird
with no need to sing
till march winds once more blow

the last shot fired in anger
from the cannon barrel
the smoke wafting over
and a world that
all may share

each child a warm bed
food upon the plate
praying each to a god of love
without cynicism or hate
reaffirmed with loving hands
of their worth each day

an old man forgiven
of transgressions and deeds
facing his final judgment
with doubtful thoughts appeased
like a ship seeking safe harbor
from perilous seas
I humbly ask,
is this not peace?

Ray Cutshaw

Sailing away against the rough sea
With bitter winds and salt water tearing at my dress
My hair windblown and woven into tight knots.
I can’t escape the fresh air or the wispy clouds
That gently brush a painting in the sky.
The scent of it all fills me
Deeply, rushing from my head to my toes

Comforting and soothing,
Yet exciting and electrifying
I follow it, try to engulf it so that it
Will stay with me until forever ends.
But it leaves me, disappears into the vast world.
Out of my lungs, swept out of my mind
And out of my body, no longer nestled
Comfortably in my soul.

Yet here and now, here it is
Once again playing with my mind,
Teasing me for just a second.
But I’m not sailing away.
No seagulls and no salt water
No wind and no clouds
No flying dress winding around my ankles,
Only the angry buzz of an airport behind me
On the busy east coast of New York.

Cassandra Hoffman



So this is what the end of life is like
He said
Last night I felt myself slipping away
But I held on for you

We were taking it in shifts
Just like my father
To be conscious to the end
To be conscious for the beginning

The returning home

There’s nothing at the end
He said
Just peace beautiful peace
Not bad after a lifetime of pain

But nothing’s happening tonight
I’ll call you
She said
I want to see my new grandson first
He said

Stubborn to the end
We laid the baby down next to him
Why did you call him that?
He said

It doesn’t hurt a bit
He said
Not after a lifetime of pain
Peace beautiful peace

Go home now, I’ll call you
She said
If anything changes
But everything changes
Too slowly to see

I was going back at two
But at one I felt an urgency
I was on the freeway when he passed
The car slowed of its own accord

No hurry now
He rode beside me
In the front passenger’s seat
Take it easy
He said

She was crying when I got there
You can go in and see him now
She said
You need to cry

They’ve made a mistake
I said
He looks the same
I leant to have a closer look

Boo! He said
I felt his joy
And then regret
I didn’t mean to scare you

Just like you to hang around
I said
Ever curious
Where’s peace now?

Bugger peace
He said
I can run again, I can jump
I found my other leg

Iris Lavell