That early hour before a brute world
holds your palm open over its lit candle.
Before flinch or scar. Adulthood. Another
laundry line haloed between paper birches—
night-soaked sheets, yellowing socks, mom’s
dead dreams, everything windlessly idle as prayer
flags. And a cloud in the shape of a sister. This womb
emptied of promise. That brief waking moment love
has no synonym. The field demystified. Here
and there, horses not entirely unwild. Before
light muddies the waters of witness. Fingers
pressed tight to your eyelids. Artificial stars. This
nearly but not quite nothing. That there is no nothing,
even now. Just a thousand excuses to hurt before being hurt.
Filed under: Poetry
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), Disinheritance, and Controlled Hallucinations. A nineteen-time Pushcart nominee, John is the winner of numerous awards, including the Wabash Prize for Poetry, Philip Booth Award, American Literary Review Poetry Contest, Phyllis Smart-Young 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, Southern Review, 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.