Nearness #1


Don’t make us go down

to the river for reflection

for water or the promise of movement

the same drowning as a mirror’s


Don’t make us wake the world

when we wake screaming alone

each branch clasped to its winter body

sheets a silent tangle of frost


Don’t make us think

of distant heartbeats

when our blood is so near

or how bones are buried or collected or burned

in other cultures

when we do the same with our own


Don’t make us remember

that nothing ends in the manner it began

except the gnawing expectation

that only in distance

our answers will be answered

Nearness #2


We beat our naked legs

with winter’s naked branches


There is a song

in the pain

that bleeds us back into living


In a field that is a house

an empty field

neglected arms

flakes that aren’t snow

line the walls

line our eyes


The stars are too close

leak free from our fists

We are all branches

and memory and body


those distances we refuse to abandon



The Book


We like to think the book of our lives is empty

or that every page has been written

and this task of living is simply to read.


We like to think the stone in our hand touches back

(the world is dialog)

or that stones mean nothing apart from how far we can skip them.


We like to think everything is related

or that nothing connects

(there is mystery in the songs of oaks

or there are saws and factories,

an assembly line of pages).


We like to think we end with our book’s last words

or that we continue writing epilogues of ourselves forever,

that our appearance in other stories is a kind of permanence.



John Sibley Williams is the author of Controlled Hallucinations (forthcoming from FutureCycle Press) and six poetry chapbooks. He is the winner of the Heart Poetry Award, and finalist for the Pushcart, Rumi, and The Pinch Poetry Prizes. John serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review, co-director of the Walt Whitman 150 Project and Book Marketing Manager at Inkwater Press. A few previous publishing credits include: Third Coast, Inkwell, Bryant Literary Review, Cream City Review, The Chaffin Journal, The Evansville Review, Rhino and various anthologies. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

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