John Sibley Williams

Forest // Trees

I used to believe glass & my face in
glass distinct, like window vs. view,
stranger // lover. To-Whom-It-May-
Concern, when the rest of the world
is an intimacy. This must be another
bird fleeing southward, not the same
that escaped someone else’s winter
to devote three months to my tree.
This is not the past, happening still.
Blood just is, like the body, without
reason // result, heft or grace. This
sudden appearance of a blasting cap
is not Chekhov’s revolver. A far-off
war // far-off. All arrests, warranted.
When I said bird, stay I meant it, &
nothing more. This is how it feels to
admit my part. Father // father // is it
true, father, that who we are is love
& love is as full of mistaken things?


If the entire field is held together by
one pitchfork. If the dark torso sway
of night trees puts our storied past in
doubt. If us, than our negation of
another. If light, than far too many
shadows to count. If the russet dust
kicked up behind a plow making its
last pass at harvest began as a body
burnt then blended with the earth. If
the earth is a body & I am one of its
persecutors. Spine straight, & don’t
take your eyes off the barrel / noose.

Even if it fails, if tied just right how
rope leaves its intended mark. & if
the rusty old pitchfork finally snaps
& it turns out the field just keeps on
going without us.

There is No Such Thing as Trespass

Having bolt-cutted our way through
the steel mesh separating our world
from the neighbor’s slightly larger
share of things, we realize nothing
here is worth stealing we do not
already own. A century compacted
into a single red silo: ours. & inside,
a mountain of uneaten grain. Ours:
three old shovels heavy with earth’s
rust propping up a house that in turn
holds up one small corner of a sky.
This rain we mistake for the sky
grieving. Wet, white, bodiless dress
someone else’s sister left too long
on a thin line between almond trees.
& ghosts, as always, all around us.
Our dead. Our grief. Our mother’s
voice calling us home through holes
built into the fence. & this hurt: still
ours. Same empty place at our table.
Same hunger we mistake for god.
Same cross-stitch of smoke & ash
working its way up the horizon.

Author Portrait

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. 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.

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