Time and the Tilting Earth shows Miller Williams at his sharpest. When he tells us "it's hard to be understood and make that look easy," he describes his own poetry perfectly. This latest effort from Williams provides a collection of rhythmical poems in conversational language about the nature of human beings and the world in which we live. In poems covering topics such as science, religion, and marriage, Williams displays in plentiful measures the qualities that have made him a cherished and long-admired poet: mordant and trenchant wit, expert, light-fingered technique, quick understanding of character, and skillful use of irony. In Time and the Tilting Earth, each poem, says the author, begins as the poet's and ends as the reader's.
Back barely half a slow century past
this house was built in a yard a yard or so deep.
Beneath the land was a longtime city dump.
Glass and plastic and metal work their way to the air
and there they tell me things that were long untold
of how we once were, in a world that was.
Here sits someone drinking a Nehi soda,
hearing someone sing on a foot-wide record
wobbling around the pole of a lazy table,
barely a turn a second, one song on a side.
Somebody here bending over the fender
of a car with a running board and no seat belts
gives up on a carburetor and goes into the house
to catch a favorite show on the Philco set.
Here, holding a box the size of an ice bucket,
someone takes a photograph of someone.
Here someone files the colorless picture away
in a wooden box that one day leaves a hinge.
Nobody knows I'm watching. I think Hello,
but even the loudest thought comes back unheard.
Someday, maybe, someone crossing a playground
will touch the toe of a shoe to this fountain pen,
see someone like me writing something,
and wonder a second or two what it might have been.
--"Time and the Tilting Earth" [via]