June 2017 Featured Writer: Claire Williams

Swimming with Elephants Publications would like to introduce you to our June 2017 Featured Writer: Claire Williams.

Claire Laura Williams is a Pushcart Prize nominee and writer of both poetry and fiction.  She has collaborated with both visual and musical artists to produce films, songs, and artist’s books. After earning her B.A. in Creative Writing from University of California, Santa Cruz, she now lives in Vancouver, Canada where she is studying to be an archivist and librarian.  Her forthcoming projects include a book of short stories based off of traditional Scottish folklore, and a book-length collection of poems exploring the intersection of gender, morality, and power. For more of her work and how to contact her please visit www.clairielll.com  Please enjoy this short collection of Claire William’s work entitled: A Liar and a Thief.

Please enjoy this short collection of Claire William’s work entitled: A Liar and a Thief.


A Liar and a Thief

by Claire Williams


Being A Bad Person


Being a bad person I had to shackle up some truths before I came to visit you.

Took the truth with me everywhere, and kept it bound tight. Swaddled sadness.

Never loved anything equally for long. Threw out perfectly good things.

Invited in all the wrong ones. Made a map to your house and followed it.

Was never lost. Being a bad person, I loved being bad.

You asked if this made me good, and I stuck my head in the oven,

and said, like this. You could cook me like this.


Doing the Right Thing


Doing the right thing,

as a disobedient, secretive,

bad person who loves gold,

is hard.


It’s not easy for anyone, I know.

Still I thought it’d be easier for me.

I ran miles to tell you

this. I ran miles.


A Liar and a Thief


She lived in a stolen land. She lived in stolen clothing. Everything was half stolen. Everything was half hers. She kicked at the truth. She french-kissed it. She dug into its shoulders with her elbows. There was her mother picking daffodils from the neighbor’s yard and her grandfather spanking her mother, saying “I never raised a liar and a thief!” Her mother marrying her father, his pinstripe suit. Even before that: him kissing another woman in front of her mother, turning around, laughing, kissing the other woman some more.


More, More, More


In the end, thief wished she had cared more for love than fire.

In the end, thief cared more for fire, and she ate the fire like chocolate.

She held it in her belly, and said, look, the fire’s gone.

She rubbed her tummy, and said, it’s all gone.

If the men didn’t mind being burned, they kissed her and pulled

it out a bit. One thread of flame at a time. Yanking

embers from her chest. She said more, more, more,

and lit the whole place up around them. If the men didn’t

mind being burned. More likely though, they minded,

and they screamed in the night. In pain and in fear of more pain.

Didn’t she warn them of this? No. Somehow she hadn’t.

She said, I care for fire, and they heard, I care for love.


The Second Half


The second half of the story went like this:

You forgave me, but I’d already forgiven



There was a shadow, always, but it was my

shadow, and I called it by its name.


I never called you again. You could see

the disdain pouring from me.

I didn’t hide it,

and I was strong.


I wrote the words:

I hate (and I hesitated) nothing.

I took the wounded dog

by the collar and found somewhere

to save her life.

Video by Sarah Simka Jaffe