by John Sibley Williams
Everywhere is the same
half-acre of midwest sky
the same erratic birds without a firmament to rise toward,
hills whose shade refuses to lengthen, comfort. All the animals in us scattering
for the cover of bars & churches, their gods
one in the same, making melodies of crisis.
I would feed you my body
if it parted the smoke for just one night. One dawn that wakes without hunger & cough.
Like that wafer that stands in for deliverance, the wine meant to taste like blood
I would give you
my voice, my lungs, the whole damn thing
to scream from
if the wind could carry it
out over the field.
If echo had an aftermath. Like fire. Like this fire we’ve lit:
swallowing & spitting back up: charred, changed. Not a prayer, exactly, but something
like asking without expecting an answer. I would return you
to the safety we say we remember from childhood
if that country still existed in us.
Scars & Souvenirs
Tonight we’re busying the remaining cows
for sale to a slaughterhouse. & a body’s freight,
takes on a darker promise. It’s best to get death
out of your system, someone who shares too
many of my features says, as much to himself.
All at once, without grief, so you can rest & rest well.
Even god has trouble working on no sleep.
The wheat rises in strict rows & moves however
the wind demands. The wind demands we restrain
with rocks the tarp over my father’s unfinished
Pontiac. Its decades of rust demand he try & try
& fail to wrench it back to life. Life demands we
smoke enough cigarettes to keep the stars clouded
& unreadable, that we sit all night in the heavy
steam of others’ last breaths listening for that
something that must exist for all this nothing
to seduce & satisfy.
We can’t divine the landscape as ours or theirs
forever. A bolt pistol is made to fit every forehead
equally. Even if it’s not important, I’m sorry
the moon in us reflects so much clearer than our sun,
& that I’m learning to be okay with it.
John Sibley Williams
John Sibley Williams is the author of As One Fire Consumes Another (Orison Poetry Prize, 2019), Skin Memory (Backwaters Prize, 2019), Disinheritance, and Controlled Hallucinations. An eleven-time Pushcart nominee, John is the winner of numerous awards, including the Philip Booth Award, American Literary Review Poetry Contest, Phyllis Smart-Young Prize, The 46er Prize, 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. Learn more at https://johnsibleywilliams.com. or on Facebook and Twitter.