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Two Poems


No one’s drowned in the boarded up well out back in a century. When I pry up the nails to let in some sky, the voices the moss maintained rise like a cloud of bats from the mouth of a cave. Hungry to be heard, as any static thing, I say to the dead you are lucky to be so permanent, so practiced at loneliness, so close, so goddamn close to journey’s end. Maybe they’ve had enough of this living forever. Maybe the mystery has never been the where or how, but why this need to be forgotten. There are many ways to scream so no one hears, and each sounds just like a child alone again in a night-heavy farmhouse, making monsters of his shadow and friends with his dead, running wild out into the dark with only a hammer and his silence;  a door he can’t remember opening slamming shut behind him.

The Animal

All the cruelties are different, but there’s something familiar in carrying our children safely through the world by our teeth. In pressing an empty mouth up to the only part of us that nourishes. Sometimes, with winter at its deadest, in eating our young and starting over again in spring. It’s spring, thank god, and all we have is an open pasture of half-broken foals. A rusty cage for the chronic wild. A spindle-legged wire fence wrapped in teeth separating one neighbor from the next. When it comes down to it, son, I don’t think I’ll ever eat you. But here I am, telling you things you already know about love.


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 seven-time Pushcart nominee, John is the winner of numerous awards, including the Philip Booth Award, American Literary Review Poetry Contest, Nancy D. Hargrove Editors' Prize, Confrontation Poetry Prize, and Vallum Award for Poetry. He serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review and works as a literary agent. Previous publishing credits include: The Yale Review, Midwest Quarterly, Sycamore Review, Prairie Schooner, The Massachusetts Review, Poet Lore, Saranac Review, Atlanta Review, Arts & Letters, Columbia Poetry Review, Mid-American Review, Poetry Northwest, Third Coast, and various anthologies. He lives in Portland, Oregon.