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Canterbury Tale
William Greenway


The flowers she buys at the grocery
spray from a jam jar, though we
can afford crystal now.
When in April, twenty years ago,
on a campus sidewalk, stopped
by a glance of sunlight on a bell tower,
she exclaimed, "How like this is
to Canterbury" -- but pronounced it
canta-bree -- I, Georgia cracker, frustrated
Anglo-, Italo-, Francophile,
was stunned, struck down by love, like
Dante by Beatrice, by her whiff
of cucumber sandwiches and tea cakes,
her skin like gold museum glint
on gesso, her legs of pink
Carrara marble, and her Jamesian claim
that American men were inferior
to European.† So I scratched
my shaggy skull for foreign words,
took up opera, told her
I wrote poetry.

Turns out, she was from
Mississippi, and, Reader,
I married her -- the salt lick
of her, the swish
of ceiling fans, afternoon
pinking the pillars of cloud
over the Gulf, gouache
of gumbo, pentimento
of peppery boiled crabs,
all washed down by
sweet tea in a jam jar.

From Everywhere at Once (University of Akron Press, 2008).
Used here with the authorís permission.


William Greenway was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, where his father hoped he would be a Baptist preacher, as he was, and his mother wanted a football hero. Instead, William tried to be a folk singer. He started writing poems when he realized his lyrics were far better than his music. Now Professor of Modern Poetry and Poetry Writing at at Youngstown State University in Ohio, he is the author of eleven books (most recently The Accidental Garden and Selected Poems) and has won numerous awards, including Georgia Author of the Year.



Post New Comment:
Outer space can't be any more thrilling than this shining ode to love!Thanks!
Posted 04/19/2016 05:26 PM
Absolutely beautifully written description of love.
Posted 04/19/2016 02:47 PM
" museum glint on gesso...the salt lick of her..." Gorgeous! Simply gorgeous.
Posted 04/19/2016 01:00 PM
I love this!
Posted 04/19/2016 11:27 AM
wendy morton:
A jam jar of a poem.
Posted 04/19/2016 11:00 AM
Lori Levy:
Beautiful language!
Posted 04/19/2016 10:41 AM
Wonderful! I love your poetry!
Posted 04/19/2016 09:37 AM
Posted 04/19/2016 09:21 AM
Absolutely love this! What a story! :-)
Posted 04/19/2016 09:02 AM
Beautiful poem!!!!
Posted 04/19/2016 08:42 AM
A fabulous sensory delight!!
Posted 04/19/2016 08:32 AM
Larry Schug:
And so there is yet one more way to commit the act of loving! Fine poem.
Posted 04/19/2016 07:35 AM
I love it! Great language.
Posted 04/19/2016 07:09 AM
delicious, William, thanks!
Posted 04/19/2016 06:34 AM
wonderfully romantic:)William. Jayne, loving the pictures and the poetry this month.
Posted 04/19/2016 06:08 AM
Linda Anger:
What a perfectly delicious poem!
Posted 04/19/2016 06:05 AM
Good stuff William, good stuff!
Posted 04/19/2016 04:25 AM
Ross Kightly:
What superb manipulation of stereotypes and succulent specific detail to create a loving portrait - this is what it's all about! More! Encore! Bis! Do it again!!
Posted 04/19/2016 03:33 AM
I'm having a sleepless night. What a delightful poem. I hope to see more of William Greenway's work. What a wonderful way with words.
Posted 04/19/2016 02:28 AM

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