Two Poems by William Ayot

Here are two poems which William Ayot wrote for his and Juliet Grayson’s presentation on Compassion for the Perpetrator on July 3rd. We thought we would share them here:


You can catch it in a lift —

on a crowded bus, on your way to work

or noticing a stranger in the street 

who, catching your eye, looks down and away. 

Sometimes it’s something someone says,

in a meeting, over dinner, even on a date.

Like a half-suppressed but barked-out sneeze 

that sprays its lethal shower of droplets, 

a single word can work its way inwards 

connect with your own particular receptors,

primed by love and learning to receive — 

each affected part infecting its neighbours 

downwards and inwards, breaking in, 

invading your body, cell by hapless cell, 

leaving you diminished and overwhelmed. 

No one’s immune, we’re all susceptible 

it’s just a matter of who, when and how.

A scourge as toxic as Justinian’s plague

It’s in amongst us, this thing we call shame.

The Empty Room

The silence in these motes of dust, 

Dancing in this sunlit room, 

Speaks to me of my gathered dead,

Met at mid-winter in a tomb. 

I’d hoped things would go differently, 

That I might feel some kind of calm 

But all my good’s not good enough

To purge my inmost core of shame —

And all my dead with all the harm 

They, shameless, visited on me,

Were never rid of shame themselves. 

They’re still there, dancing shamelessly. 

We like to think that we die whole,

Free of hurt, absolved, forgiven,

But in my empty room I know

That part of us remains unshriven. 

The quiet heals, the dancing slows, 

The hurts of generations ease.

On good days we out-love the shame 

But a little dust can make us freeze.

© William Ayot


April 20 

One Comment on “Two Poems by William Ayot

  1. My hat goes off to William for writing these poems, and for being willing to share them. Thank you!

Leave a Reply