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John Sibley Williams

Toy Boat

              —for a friend


There is no this or that body, only embrace or escape. I understand the slow song nooses make in a motel room at night. I’m not immune to a sleep empty of nightmares, empty of arms demanding you love some things more than others, of unhealed exit wounds and munitions and all that goes along with remaining here. That toy boat once larger than all seven continents barely fits the old ceramic ocean in the back yard. I know nothing our mothers foretold came true: the horizon at dawn is just an x-ray of a shattered spinal cord, and only the dead can be born again. Our bodies are sixty percent water; I understand that’s not enough to drown in. We have rivers for that kind of thing. Undertows. Pills and the solace of a warm bath. There is no lesser dark, Doug. Where they burn longest, stars only stress the rest of night. All boats are plastic, for a time. There are no oceans, no promises to keep or rescind. The children we thought would never die in us were never really children. I hope we are found to have lived without illusion, sailed without wind.







As loss makes its own weather, like a mountain before the top blows off into smolder & ash. As some beasts eat their offspring to prove a point, or when starved; how our motives aren’t so different. As all sentences are incomplete, even when they end with a hard stop or early release or fresh earth slowly shoveled over our children. If the story weren’t always the same story, maybe we’d be right in hoping some storms leave a well-lit wake, that winds clear away soot & skin to reveal an uncluttered path, that we can still believe in things. If only this bridge held our weight & the river below was alive in fish; all our animals, sated for once.

John Sibley Williams Poems

John Sibley Williams is the editor of two Northwest poetry anthologies and the author of nine collections, including 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, 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, Poetry Northwest, Third Coast, and various anthologies. He lives in Portland, Oregon. 

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