William Carlos Williams: Sympathetic Portrait of a Child

Yasuhiro Ishimoto - Chicago, Chicago
Yasuhiro Ishimoto – Chicago, Chicago (1969)

I present here a second poem from the collection Al Que Quiere! by William Carlos Williams, published in 1917. It has been transcribed on Wikisource and PoetryNook.

The murderer’s daughter looks nervous and shy, but she seems also mischievous, her smile hiding the dart of a knife.

Sympathetic Portrait of a Child
by William Carlos Williams

The murderer’s little daughter
who is barely ten years old
jerks her shoulders
right and left
so as to catch a glimpse of me
without turning round.

Her skinny little arms
wrap themselves
this way then that
reversely about her body!
she crushes her straw hat
about her eyes
and tilts her head
to deepen the shadow—
smiling excitedly!

As best as she can
she hides herself
in the full sunlight
her cordy legs writhing
beneath the little flowered dress
that leaves them bare
from mid-thigh to ankle—
Why has she chosen me
for the knife
that darts along her smile?

One can hear on YouTube this poem read by Alan Drake:

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