Three Poems by John Sibley Williams

Read More: A brief interview with John Sibley Williams

Accord

I’d like to think some things cannot be measured
in black & blue, wild vs. broken, flags, plastic jugs
of drinking water hauled up from the not entirely
polluted stream when the pipes go rusty. America,
I still consider your shadows poorly angled light,
like how a man who drinks away each night & returns
with a tongue whetted by Old Testament fury
is still a dad, like how these uneven streets keep
leading us home. I’m happy enough clinging to
a bruised sky, laddered with exhaust & exhausted
promises, if it means I can say tomorrow without
irony or suspicion. I’ll spend all summer collecting
shards of conch shells if there’s a chance the sea
still speaks in them. If pieced-back-together implies
a unity shattered, let’s agree you were never quite whole.
Let’s agree to disagree on how we got here & why
none of us can sleep. Everything I love about you fits
among the devils & dust & better bones beneath
my bed. & the levees just keep collapsing. My son
uses the same schoolbooks I marked up in monsters
twenty years ago. Sparrows won’t stop attacking
their reflections. I bury their broken-winged bodies
out back in the garden I’d like to think we share.

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Ceasefire

Set to music, those pinpricks of light
don’t make the sky much easier
to read or wish upon, but forgive,
maybe, & briefly forget. That’s why […]


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untitled

Not really a father,

what we want is something to slip our cold hands into.

Like a woolen mitten. Like the earth. Like the recently killed

when the rest of the deer have long gone stiff. We’re really asking

for something to believe in we can’t disprove, prove or answer back to. […]


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John Sibley Williams is the author of As One Fire Consumes Another (Orison Poetry Prize, 2019), Skin Memory (Backwaters Prize, University of Nebraska Press, 2019), Disinheritance, and Controlled Hallucinations. A nineteen-time Pushcart nominee, John is the winner of numerous awards, including the Wabash Prize, Philip Booth Award, Phyllis Smart-Young Prize, Nancy D. Hargrove Editors’ Prize, Confrontation Poetry Prize, and Laux/Millar Prize. He lives in Portland, Oregon and serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review.

Read More: A brief interview with John Sibley Williams