Petrels drag along the surface like daggers
or walk it like tiny gray Christs, depending.
The old beached shipwreck our children
climb through either speaks for the sea
or for the fingerprints we’re leaving
all over it. Being islands, we have no idea
if the terrible grinding beneath us might
eventually swallow what it raised
or if our bit of land lost within so much
blue will endure the next storm. Is that
why the promises our children deserve
dissolve on our tongues like salt
or poison or both? Depending
on the stars’ alignment, tonight
we’ll own what we’ve done
or none of it was ever ours.
Orbit // Obit
—for Tishani Doshi, after a friend’s suicide
Our drawing stars
together into brand new constellations
named after monsters & angry father
figures in the margins of unread textbooks
hasn’t changed the trajectory.
Snow still stacks like bodies. Above,
clouds cotton & disband. Last night
I heard a dog in the valley wound heaven
with a single wail. It was the sound of men
rubbing themselves against the world,
claiming ownership of what cannot be
owned. I wish you were still here to
bear the brunt of night’s blow.
the light struggling through these disrobed
trees hurts like a given-up-on century, like
bruised apples sinking deeper into winter,
like watching you trace a star’s path
with what would become your trigger finger
back and forth across a brilliantly
John Sibley Williams is the author of As One Fire Consumes Another (Orison Poetry Prize, 2019), Skin Memory (Backwaters Prize, 2019), Disinheritance, and Controlled Hallucinations. An eleven-time Pushcart nominee, John is the winner of numerous awards, including the Philip Booth Award, American Literary Review Poetry Contest, Phyllis Smart-Young Prize, The 46er Prize, Nancy D. Hargrove Editors' Prize, Confrontation Poetry Prize, and Laux/Millar Prize. 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, TriQuarterly, Columbia Poetry Review, Mid-American Review, Poetry Northwest, Third Coast, and various anthologies. He lives in Portland, Oregon.