John Sibley Williams

Reversing back up into the womb,
the foal’s feet, head, and all hope
the night will end without forcing
my arms deep into a cut open body
to retrieve a smaller body already more
adept at worlding than I’ll ever be.
Maybe this is a conversation
I should have had with my own mother:

           is there more to ‘no’ than leaving you
           empty? can’t there be more to ‘yes’
           than how distances collapse only
           after it’s too late?

Though tonight—grunting back up into
where I came from like the heavy ringing
stuck in the should-be-hollow of a bell—I
think I am helping life learn itself:
unspindling legs, freeing the small
constellations they’ll soon indent into grass
while running away. Mother, just this once,

         with my hands, let me speak
         of an enduring intimacy.

John Sibley Williams

Winter, with the sky
stretched to its limits,

with night all used up.
Everywhere, empty

reservoirs stars
once filled. Not

so much with light,
warmth, but the hope

insubstantial things might
satisfy what our hands

left tattered. Hungering.
Haloed in ruin—

but a minor ruin,
like a tree not born

crooked but malformed
by ropes into a special kind

of beauty. There must be
a better way to love

the world than dreaming
ourselves so far from it.

Think of beginnings
just before they lose

their luster. When I told
my son somewhere

something is right now
waking up from a deep

sleep, I assumed it
would mean more.

I’m thinking of a hard
blue lake just before thaw.

I’m thinking how wonderful
a deer he will make

when finally famished
enough to leave me

to my darkness.
Starless. Imperfect.

This sweet,
sweet animal darkness.

John Sibley Williams

If the birds are to be believed,               this harbor of small boats—
                         docked and waiting impatiently

for cloud break,              storm hush,
                                                    an opening into the world

wide enough to pass unnoticed—        is the cause of all our suffering.
                        Something awful resides

in trusting the hours to fill themselves.              Have you seen
              an old herring factory gutted by empty seas?

The eye of a lighthouse spinning alone,                             mistless, pleading
                                   to return a few of our ghosts to us? A boy

mimicking oarstrokes in the tub             lost within the shadow
            of his absent father?

A dusty window           lined with sailboats made of toothpicks in bottles?
                        Anchors eroding in the front lawns of sailors’ wives?

If I was born to do one thing right, it’s             to breathlessly watch
                                     ships become distance,

then let the distance lift
       into overwhelming gratitude—

to have known him,     to have been known by him, someday, I hope,
                                                                          to vanish without goodbye.

John Sibley Williams is the author of nine poetry collections, most recently Disinheritance. A five-time Pushcart nominee and winner of various awards, John serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review. Recent publications include: Midwest Quarterly, Massachusetts Review, Poet Lore, Columbia Poetry Review, Mid-American Review, Third Coast, Baltimore Review, and Nimrod.