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  • John Sibley Williams (bio)

poetry, John Sibley Williams

Almost immaterial            in the way of paperanimals folded fireside — haloed and almost-burning,         a branch of sun lit starlings                    eclipsed by their lengthening                            shadows.


In a matter of days, the entire forest between my window and our town has undressed. Late afternoon shadow escorts each leaf until earth swallows one, then the other. All presentation removed, my ignorance of nakedness has a chance to shine. I cannot tell chestnut from dogwood, deer tracks from where I mark my way. The moon enters the sky like a hole made entirely of yeses, in which every no, not-quite, and once you were the world resides.

This is the how of it: my finger carves her name from the air.


            From the shapelessnesswe too were born and will return to,        a sudden        temporary form—                      birds

                      strung along a winter oak,

at once with and without any sort of resonance beyond                    my iris,        making my smallness an enormous                            opportunity / burden. [End Page 499]


To all these darknesses that mean to me the world — where breakable implies broken, unseen means nonexistent, healing when said aloud reveals nothing will ever be the same, not quite:

To all these stories I've been asked to retell by candlelight to paper cranes and autumn and unspooling fire, and family:

somewhere deep inside the shell of her body, a child is playing in these cold naked woods. Making a universe of it. Dogwood or oak or whatever we've chosen to call them.

To the shadows of starlings bent winterward, outside,


no more than the sound they make

                                        departing. [End Page 500]

John Sibley Williams

john sibley williams is the editor of two Northwest poetry anthologies and the author of nine collections, including Disinheritance and Controlled Hallucinations. A five-time Pushcart nominee and winner of the Philip Booth Award, American Literary Review Poetry Contest, Nancy D. Hargrove Editors' Prize, Confrontation Poetry Prize, and Vallum Award for Poetry, John serves as editor of the Inflectionist Review and works as a literary agent. Previous publishing credits include: The Midwest Quarterly, Poet Lore, Columbia Poetry Review, MidAmerican Review, Third Coast, Baltimore Review, Nimrod, RHINO, and various anthologies. He lives in Portland.



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pp. 499-500
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