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About Zach Williams

A writer and lawyer who lives on the Hill.

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Author Archive
    
    When We Were Young: A Story of America

    When We Were Young: A Story of America

    Back in the summer of 2004, roughly fifteen months after the United States invaded Iraq, I sat in the United States House of Representatives, high in the balcony on to the right of the lectern for he who stood at it, and listened to Colin Powell speak to a chamber full of congressional interns. It was a hard time for the United States. The Bush presidency and the invasion of Iraq had led to a sense of national division as great as we had experienced in my lifetime, and certainly since the Vietnam War. I tried to remain aloof and…

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    Art of Survival

    Cold kitchen floor
    Smooth basil leaves
    Dog’s rubber tongue
    Tree’s hardened skin

    Bricks under foot
    Grey chalky clouds
    Paint sculpted on wood
    Her shadow on blue

    Steel’s sharpened edge
    Soft swollen vein
    This very pen
    This scribbled painting…

    Your hair. Your nape.
    My fingers. Your lips.

    All these surfaces
    That I touch
    Fade into stone.

    Another Terrible Week Ends

    Poems, with their frustrations, are apt oblations.

    See: A failure of sound in line one,
    And two. And now three.
    A fitting clang for a clanging land:
    Half-formed,
    One-third too much logic,
    Savagely lucid, like a siren.

    Going from Jericho to Jerusalem to family dinner,
    In a beat-up Buick, taillight out. He groans,
    Pierced in his side, for his wide-set nose.

    Perception is

    The sound of hawking CDs on the corner, is
    The sound of He’s gotta gun, is
    The sound of tap tap tap, is
    The sound of Oh my God, is

    Perception.

    A black teenage boy sobs at a podium.
    A young black woman sobs at a podium.
    A black police chief…

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    From the Archives: God, Help Us Be Like the Nuns (Thoughts on Scapegoating)

    From the Archives: God, Help Us Be Like the Nuns (Thoughts on Scapegoating)

    Alejandro and Maria Martinelly of Prince William County, Virginia, knew their son’s affliction all too well, and so they hid the car keys from him. The ruse was effective in keeping him from his third conviction – until one night in August 2010. Fresh into his latest bender, young Carlos A. Martinelly-Montano dug the keys out of his parents’ closet, fired up their Subaru Outback, and went on a joyride. Anyone who has been in debt to, or had a loved one in debt to the rapacious creditor that hounded 23-year-old Carlos knows all too well that no amount of…

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    No More Parties with Kanye: A Review of Kanye West’s “Life of Pablo”

    No More Parties with Kanye: A Review of Kanye West’s “Life of Pablo”

    “Name one genius that ain’t crazy.”
    –Kanye West, “Feedback,” The Life of Pablo

    No one who is actually crazy calls himself “crazy.” A healthy person admits her illness. A truly mentally ill person never admits his mental illness. A borderline class of person exists who calls himself “crazy” not in earnestness but in flippancy, as an in an unconscious admission of decadence and denial, as an unapologetic announcement.

    The “artist as madman” meme is like many shibboleths and stereotypes—rooted in a grain of truth, but abused and degraded with popularization, used to justify rather than challenge, like the current fad of practicing mindfulness…

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    Our Town

    Never a commotion in this town.
    No crowds of yelling hustlers in the bus line.
    No controlled professionals, stamping toward the train,
    Without eyes but for a deadline.
    A few cars driving to soccer practice,
    And the college girl with a tattoo on her foot,
    Gliding toward the coffee shop, admiring
    The bouquet of sunshine and ocher leaves
    And that tumbling hill where sleds find snow.
    A lady who sells bacon
    Covered in chocolate, before she teaches yoga
    Down the street from that row of old houses
    Where the lawyer writes a will on demand
    And the insurance agent’s wife visits for lunch.
    They own a dog, a yellow lab, who bounds up the…

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    Philip Seymour Hoffman Was Right: A Belated Memorial

    Philip Seymour Hoffman Was Right: A Belated Memorial

    When you work too much, you don’t experience events of life so much as you pass them by.  The dry cleaning piles up.  I need to take those shirts in; I do when I’m down to my last shirt.  Without realizing it, the only thing in my refrigerator is a carton of curdled half-and-half and some rotted vegetables.  I have some friends, I remember; I’ll catch up with them when work dies down (which it never does).  I need to refresh myself on the current events; yesterday I heard something about a lost airliner.  At the coffee shop, at two…

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    The Irritating, Infantile, Irresistible Mr. West: A Review of Kanye West’s Yeezus

    The Irritating, Infantile, Irresistible Mr. West: A Review of Kanye West’s Yeezus

    What in the world happened to Kanye West? He once gave a fresh, whimsical sound to Jay-Z and others, and then, armed with courage and a robust cleverness sufficient to overcome his limited lyrical abilities, he became a novel, thought-provoking voice in a musical genre that had become suffocated by the reflexive fulfillment of its own stereotypes. Fast forward a decade, and West has created his own stereotype, which he acts out with utter seriousness.

    West once challenged hip-hop’s hustler ethos by dressing like a frat boy and wearing a bear costume on the cover of his first album. Now, he…

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    Mine Eyes Have (and Have Not) Seen the Glory: Terrence Malick's To the Wonder

    Mine Eyes Have (and Have Not) Seen the Glory: Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder

    Terrence Malick

    There are reasons not to perform well at your work. If you give a fine sermon that alters the thinking of your parishioner, your parishioner will have that sermon in mind when he listens to your next one. If you complete your projects at work and impress your superiors, you will be given more work. Or, as Jerry Seinfeld once said, if you host an award show and bring the house down, your only reward is the opportunities to host more award shows.

    The quandary faces Terence Malick in the crafting of his new film, To the Wonder. Coming…

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    Mutually Antagonistic Rival Goodness: James Alison on the Purpose of Theology

    Mutually Antagonistic Rival Goodness: James Alison on the Purpose of Theology

    Catholic theologian and noted Rene Girard interpreter James Alison on the purpose of theology:

    One of the most difficult things I find in teaching theology is people’s addiction to goodness.  Theology is principally for people who are not very good.  That’s the whole point of it.  It presupposes that God is talking to people who are inclined to be screw-ups and liars, murders, and thieves, et cetera, et cetera, manipulators, and so on and so forth.

    And yet just think how much investment in our culture and society there is in being the good guy, and how much talk there is about…

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    The End Is the Beginning Is the End, Part IV: Living Backwards

    The End Is the Beginning Is the End, Part IV: Living Backwards

    To read the previous installment, go here. For part one, here.

    Silent in the Still Waters of Mystery

    Here’s an example of the reflexivity of my own self-interested, predetermined fiction-making. Recently, I sauntered into the elevator at the end of a day at the courthouse. Like every elevator, this one has an “emergency” button. After I pushed the button to take me to the first floor, I eyed that emergency button, and I wondered silently to myself. I remember some kind of gesture of flinging by my right arm and the sound of a “ding!” Straight away I recalled what a well-behaved,…

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    The End Is the Beginning Is the End, Part III: The Trellis of the Mind

    The End Is the Beginning Is the End, Part III: The Trellis of the Mind

    The End Is the Beginning

    Tony Romo, Misjudged

    We are all familiar with fictions in which the desire for consolation puts the beginning and middle “under the shadow of the end.”  In fact, we all write numerous such fictions, many of them daily: think of every argument that takes place in your mind, how the end is determined, and the way that the plot elements are arranged reflexively to lead concordantly, plausibly, to that end.

    Among the more unjust, unfair, and tragic end-determined fictions that come to my mind is the Misjudgment of Tony Romo.  The fiction about Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback Tony…

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