John Sibley Williams

Back when you were a country

held together by wild oceans,
grassed over rail tracks,
whiskey and brief churches,

your interior untamed

as a dawn come too soon, flooding
every room of our house with bright dream-

killing light; I

shaved away the smoothest bits of myself
and learned to relish husk and
hard hands.

I learned there’s no difference

between being gold and sun
glinting off the bottom of a tin pan.

Between arms and the mountains
without end I took them for.

Conquering and being seen
to have conquered. Country
and an acre of rough terrain.

Between such shows of strength and
staying long enough to prove them.

John Sibley Williams is the editor of two Northwest poetry anthologies and the author of nine collections, including Disinheritance and Controlled Hallucinations. A five-time Pushcart nominee and winner of the Philip Booth Award, American Literary Review Poetry Contest, Nancy D. Hargrove Editors’ Prize, Confrontation Poetry Prize, and Vallum Award for Poetry, John serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review and works as a literary agent. Previous publishing credits include: The Midwest Quarterly, The Massachusetts Review, Poet Lore, Columbia Poetry Review, Mid-American Review, Third Coast, Baltimore Review, Nimrod, RHINO, and various anthologies. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

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