The Man Who Blamed Life on a Spaniel
Kenny Williams
You can visit the spot on St. Helena where Bonaparte 
isn't buried. You can visit the caretaker, too, 
holed up in his office with hot fresh coffee 
and some newer issues of Le Monde, 
on a cool wet night, if the phone hasn't rung 
and he hasn't gone to take pictures of a woman 
in her apartment, which happens on the island 
more than might seem possible.  
First thing when he gets there he sees 
the woman's revolting little dog, fat as a fish 
in a bowl, then the woman, Mrs. Thayer, 
fresh from the shower and shaking his hand.  
Hesitant pleasantries are exchanged.  
She unwraps her steaming hair, sits a little stiffly 
on the couch, and then, at his suggestion, 
on a kitchen chair brought over to the balcony, 
the glass door slid back, the evening air 
rushing over her goose-bumpy skin.  
He looks around for some sign of disorder, 
a potted tree she forgot to water.  
It's all he can think of in the moment,
but the island, as you might imagine, 
having never been there, is green enough 
a tree indoors would seem a mere gesture 
of realism, something superfluous.  
So he takes the necessary photographs and goes.  
A tad disappointed, he walks his bike 
in the direction of Fat Dragon Chinese
and his favorite table (no rush to get home 
and guard an emperor's empty grave) 
and at the big revolving door an old friend 
greets him whose name escapes him 
when he needs it most, and he remembers 
the dog, and that the island was a jail, 
its watchtowers built to precision 
under cover of night.   
Kenny Williams's poems have appeared most recently in Rattle, Lake Effect, FIELD, and Fence, and are forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Gulf Coast, the American Literary Review, and the Kenyon Review Online. He lives and works in Richmond, Virginia, and holds an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

more by Kenny Williams:
The Minotaur