John Sibley Williams



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, Arts & Letters, Columbia Poetry Review, Mid-American Review, Poetry Northwest, Third Coast, and various anthologies. He lives in Portland, Oregon.