John Sibley Williams

Untitled {luster}

Flares only illuminate the ruined part of the road. The rest is a night so perfect constellations disband & the stars, one by one, blow out. Still there is plenty for the dogs pushing into the city to pray to, eyes wild & wide & red as a tangled metal body catching the glow off these burning sticks that circle what’s left of his truck. Blue uniforms comb waist-high weeds for crushed beer cans or splifs or some reason six blocks will go powerless tonight. Snapped tibia. Downed pole. Everything now dead nouns in a world built on verbs. Me & one parent & a paralyzed moon, stuck in our orbits. For all I know this is how our story returns to its beginnings. Calculate the trajectory with string then follow just how far we can fly with some push. & I can-not close my hand around his hand until I’m told it won’t hurt, as if it will ever not hurt. & now the dogs are pawing at something they think holy, & wailing. & a sweet, brief cometlight pauses, passes overhead.

Untitled {spectacle}

Why in their dancing for us circus elephants don’t pull the canvas sky down each night and trample our kids into soft little star-stains in bare earth, I’ll never know. And is there anything so damaged as a broken horse left to ride itself? Feather-plume, velvet saddle, so beautifully lost without a half-naked woman kicking dust and cool autumn dusk from its hide. And clowns all frenzy and laughter, angels until we start demanding demons. And then they stay demons forever. I’m terrified of what makes me cheer, that I’ll end up clapping whether or not this tamer’s head emerges unbitten.

Untitled {seabird}

Someone has misplaced a seabird so far inland this all seems more like fiction than just another Sunday lost in Kansas, circling a parking lot for the third time, avoiding the dark suits and fiery eyes of end-timers I secretly envy a bit in their sureness. To think the rest of the world is fury too. Not just this wild congregation of crows, hungry for scraps, broken by a single gull that has no business being here. Not just our bodies when the world refuses to submit. But the autumn oaks we’ve shamed in their undressing. And the clouds that cymbal and the swelling river and names we give to things that fight so hard to shed them. I think I’d like to believe in signs, that this strange white bird augurs something that only seems grave on the surface or that making a metaphor of man means we can harm with impunity or that hidden behind the visible a whole new world fierce as the world we scorn yet fear losing waits, hard as a father’s open palm, as forgiving as that.

Self-Portrait as a Hard Metal

Iron filings from where a saw wore down something solider than any of us blow about the workshop on little more than an open window’s breath. Tools meant for snapping, searing, and putting back together stretch along the walls, and pin-sized holes punched through the roof give us a perfect view of how the sky must look from the wrong side of an exit wound. More and more these days I hear my grandfather’s voice drill into the brief hush between hammer strikes: what is it you think you’re making of your life? If the true song of a man hums from where his hand reaches blindly into the darkness for another’s, even if they never touch, I sing best when alone, the numbing tremor of hard metals reshaping one another spreading up my arm, my entire body; slivers of what I hope I’ve made solider, useful, dancing weightless in the slim rays of light.

How to Build an American House

What the saw wants once sapwood has sung itself out. A hammer now that all the nails are flush. A boy after having most of his childhood pulled from his mouth like teeth, like song, leaving him a man. In any case, once the job is done the thing persists. The subject fades to object. Its verb loses agency. I am. At least I am. And the sun sinks into grass, staining the surface red. It’s good, for now, forgetting the world keeps going without us, that we are bright flecks of light dancing into a back-drop of more light. The saw hangs static from hooks above its creation. All the boards are in the right place. The child has a child he hopes will have a child someday. What is it he wants now that the house is ready for living?

Sanctum

What they’ve died in made sacred while what killed them is forgotten or forgiven. No wonder history is often pictured as a sky-bearing cross or a sharp cut of moon or an endless sea of candles in a guilt-darkened room. The story as some know it ends with tangled rebar. A shattered school. Empty promises made over a rich and distant earth. I’m more familiar with young men moving stones from caves and waiting for their fathers to call them home. It’s a ramshackle river we pretend to try to cross to see ourselves beautiful on the other shore. We are convinced we cannot be beautiful here. We find the signs we’re looking for, and they mean exactly what we knew they would. I’m looking for the world the world doesn’t like to talk about above a whisper. Some sort of unforbidden city. A beveled hilltop overlooking an impossible meadow made weightless by the dead. The dead here are so heavy. We may never be this beautiful again.

John Sibley Williams is the author of nine poetry collections, most recently Disinheritance. An eleven-time Pushcart nominee and winner of various awards, John serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review. Publications include: Yale Review, Atlanta Review, Prairie Schooner, Midwest Quarterly, Sycamore Review, Massachusetts Review, Columbia, Third Coast, and Poetry Northwest.

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About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis (susanlewis.net) is the editor of Posit (positjournal.com) and the author of ten books and chapbooks, including Zoom, winner of the 2017 Washington Prize, Heisenberg's Salon, This Visit, and State of the Union. Her poetry has appeared in such places as The Awl, Berkeley Poetry Review, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Cimarron, Gargoyle, The Journal, New American Writing, The New Orleans Review, Prelude, Raritan, Seneca Review, So to Speak, Verse, Verse Daily, and VOLT.

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