Some of what we do, we do
to make things happen,
the alarm to wake us up, the coffee to perc,
the car to start.

The rest of what we do, we do
trying to keep something from doing something,
the skin from aging, the hoe from rusting,
the truth from getting out.

With yes and no like the poles of a battery
powering our passage through the days,
we move, as we call it, forward,
wanting to be wanted,
wanting not to lose the rain forest,
wanting the water to boil,
wanting not to have cancer,
wanting to be home by dark,
wanting not to run out of gas,

as each of us wants the other
watching at the end,
as both want not to leave the other alone,
as wanting to love beyond this meat and bone,
we gaze across breakfast and pretend.

—Miller Williams

Rights & Access

from Some Jazz a While: Collected Poems, 1999
University of Illinois Press

Copyright 1999 Miller Williams.
All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of University of Illinois Press. Copyright 1999 by Miller Williams. For further permissions information, contact University of Illinois Press, 1325 S. Oak Street, Champaign, IL 61820,

  • Miller Williams

    Miller Williams (1930-2004) was born in Hoxie, Arkansas. He published fourteen poetry collections, including Time and the Tilting Earth: Poems (Louisiana State University Press, 2008).

    More about Miller Williams