John Sibley Williams


Copper wiring: sheetrock: dust: ash. But no alcove, money: scrolls: relics of an era aged into worth. & not one body. Our skeletons are our own.


A house’s silence amplified by our lovemaking. & since we’ve come so far to taste a stranger’s intimacy, we unhang the family photos, roll each memory around our mouths, devour the drapes, set fire to what we can-not take with us, then turned back to each other, continue loving all over the floor, like cannibals.


We don’t pray. We pry the sky apart plank-by-plank to get at the light the old folks say divorces love from this simmer. Our parents divorced & re-married & the whole town tastes of rust. A person can die from all these uniform neighborhoods, could break in & out of his own house through the same small rupture.


Whatever it was returns to shadowy forest, & everything is mine, alone, again, for the night. But I can’t keep my eyes from the near distance, out beyond my grasp, where the world eases calmly to nowhere. Broken by a brief act of witness. Like a mother glued to a monitor, as the beats still: as she rubs her emptying belly: as a breeze does odd things to the trees: as if what chains them to us is more than air.


Each body is an outpost, populating, on its way to becoming a city. How the lights multiply, the surrounding darknesses swell: how the moment speaks in future tense: if I’m being honest, how we miss what we never quite had, holding the light up to it-self, saying this is what we needed you to be.


Whatever it was we needed returns in unrecognizable forms. The tear in a screen door, letting winged things loose inside. The white-tailed deer on a field’s edge, closer, so close it dissolves in my hands. Spilled glass of expired milk. How we can’t stop drinking it off the kitchen floor. On all fours, as if in prayer, drinking up the pale face, rippled, looking back.

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

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