You could tell from the start these stars
weren’t the right kind of candles & night
not wounded enough to call it an altar;
just a few pale scars where a violence
that once held things together went all
peaceful & loose & downwind from
yesterday’s bodies a terrible absence of rot.
The birds weren’t saying secession
or internment anymore. The churches
weren’t burning or singing the rafters
clear of mice. The old hanging tree
out back shook free its histories, roots
nourished by a silent rain. The boys
who normally would be numbers by now
dismantled their oaths & fathers never lifted
their shotguns from the mantle; the animals
allowed to eat each other again, to scavenge
& wail & find their own places to die, ungently.
Nowhere a daughter fenced off from a mother
who hauled her gods over miles of unbroken desert
to finally say home. Then have even this taken away.
Yes, this was a river meant for crossing.
This was just another dream
in a landscape flush with unbreakable dreams
of a river that could be crossed without bridge,
without sacrificing a single star to the current.
John Sibley Williams
John Sibley Williams is the author of As One Fire Consumes Another (Orison Poetry Prize, 2019), Skin Memory (Backwaters Prize, University of Nebraska Press, 2019), Summon (JuxtaProse Chapbook Prize, 2019), Disinheritance, and Controlled Hallucinations. A twenty-three-time Pushcart nominee, John is the winner of numerous literary awards, including the Wabash Prize for Poetry, Philip Booth Award, and Laux/Millar Prize. He serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review and teaches for Literary Arts. He also works as a poetry editor, writing coach, workshop leader, and literary agent. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Rivier University and an MA in Book Publishing from Portland State University. Visit him at https://www.johnsibleywilliams.com.