Sometimes it’s best to kneel, stained & sea-slick, torn, bloody as a body can be, among the tidewrack. Some- times it’s good not to see the bottom or know if you’re made it that low. The moon hung from a single uncut string hoards all the light & the men you used to look up to: mere shapes without substance. In the gathering distance, a river empties itself out entirely into an insatiable sea. Some -day you’ll also learn to be satisfied without being full. Life may not get easier or harder or different than we imagined, but the weight feels right for the deeds we drag behind us. Or the silences, sometimes heavier. Not an anchor, son, it’s best to be a whet –stone scraped smooth by the tides; for those wide white waves to break briefly for your body, as if finally, son, finally you’ve made an impact.
THAN THE DEAD
The living are colder, long Montana winter whiter; this idle light filtered through hardy pine still more honest than the thousand candles we’ve lit to remind the world that we’re here. & the headstones in the high grass. Those little white crosses, the huge stone angels weeping single tears. I don’t know what to say to our kids when they ask what happens to stars at dawn or why we fall in love with what we cannot see. Someone has spilled the moon all down our night- black walls. Someone throws water on our long smothered flames. Once there was, & as suddenly no longer, in some ways leaving the dead more fitted to these grief-wasted nights. Our mouths are waiting to be filled with silence, I finally reply, though the kids have grown up & moved on to salting their own wounds.
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. A nineteen-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 Laux/Millar Prize. He serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review and works as a literary agent. Previous publishing credits include: The Yale Review, Midwest Quarterly, Southern Review, 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.