William Slaughter is the author of Untold Stories from Empty Bowl Press (1990) and The Politics of My Heart from Pleasure Boat Studio (1996), books of poems and essays, and the founding editor and publisher of Mudlark: An Electronic Journal of Poetry and Poetics.

His work has been published in magazines ranging from Poetry (Chicago) to Exquisite Corpse in the United States; Malahat Review, Prism International, and Fiddlehead in Canada; Critical Quarterly (England), Poetry Australia, Frank (France), and People’s Daily in China.

Slaughter has had Fulbrights to China and Egypt, has taught at the Florida State University London Study Center, and is an emeritus Professor of English at the University of North Florida.

He lives on the Atlantic coast of Florida with his wife Jeanie in a house full of birds.

william slaughter

Hungry Ghosts

All the men I've ever been
I still am. Hungry ghosts

are in me, each one
with his own name,

fault, apology, dream.
Every night, their mouths

open wide, and I feed them.
I always feed them.

from The Politics of My Heart:


'Drum Wave Island'
off the south coast of China,
Fujian province. I've taken
a ferry across the Egret River
to get here. Beethoven

was always in love
in 1799, the year he wrote
his Sonata Pathetique,
from which I'm requesting
the adagio movement

for my funeral, music
to mourn by. Sunlight Cliff.
'The highest place we have,'
my Gulangyu friend says.
I'm standing on it.

Having climbed so high
I've earned the right
to look down and back
at the mainland. Distance
is what I've spent my life

trying for. Behind me
in the Lotus Flower Nunnery
there are no nuns on view,
only the traffic of the human
world far below. Beethoven,

at the end of his life,
heard differently, was deaf.
I haven't lost my hearing
yet, just my breath. As if
by request, a piano is playing,

somewhere in the distance,
a classical piece I recognize
but can't name. The notes
are giving themselves away
like family secrets

--the proudest houses--
in the island streets.
The heady air of the South
China Sea has dizzied me.
I still don't know

what my need is.
On my way up Sunlight Cliff
I passed a small cemetery.
The stones rose suddenly up.
It was there Beethoven

took me by surprise,
has kept me company
since. The stones
were unreadable; the lives
they marked, forgotten.

But desire is not gone.
Beethoven loved his mother
beyond measure. She died
too soon. He never married.
I'm with my wife on Gulangyu.