John Sibley Williams


                                                   Munro Galloway

                                                   Munro Galloway

Dear Doctor Frankenstein

 

It’s never taken lightning

to cobble a life together

from scraps or waken

a town to its most primal

fires. Don’t you remember

how we sealed the well

when that boy who’d fallen

wouldn’t stop wailing

mother. Or the carnival

we chased out once the oddities

turned from monsters to mirrors.

How we come to know animals

by breaking them, our bodies

only after the liver has failed,

every lover and stranger

as shadows of ourselves.

It’s a mistake to think

everything is an invention

of man. The world does not turn

but is born to winter.

In some versions I am victim

while in others I cannot help

but add my torch to the burning

house. It’s a mistake when I say

this is not my house.


Girl Underwater

 

While there’s still some mirror in it,

I enter the river I once hoped to drown in

and, naked apart from my clothes,

wonder how the shadows passing beneath

could have ever appeared as sharks.

How the green and reaching tendrils licking my legs

could have been so misconstrued.

They still await explanation

but are not so dangerous anymore.

Like a soldier returned home to redraft his story.

Like a miscarriage once the house is filled with children.

I wanted to go live in the dead city lining the river’s bottom

but I’m not so sure anyone still resides there.

The unknown legacy of lost things is a whale’s song

I will not follow to its natural end.

There is only one end and it is not today.

Today crash and churn are just synonyms for movement.

I swallow my breath and swim down

past the warm summer light to touch

the crumbled walls of the city. My house is mainly intact.

I knock at the door and am greeted as a stranger.


Exhibition

 

Everywhere, wagon wheels and polished buffalo skulls.

Copper coins and stirrups saved from rust by double panes of glass.

A dramatic portrait of someone living’s great grandmother. The empty eye

of a noose swaying civilly over sagebrush. All that rednesses soaked

deep in its braids. Crow feathers. Golden eagle feathers. Chipped clay.

 

Like some great ark upturned and abandoned when the flood never came,

a rail station circa back then crumbles to the earth and weeps.

The field around it still filled with waiting. Rib bones bent into bows.

Many things here in miniature but for three Winchesters and

a jar by the door for donations. Reparations. Taxidermy owls.

A cradleboard strapped to a fiberglass mother.

 

Either the field out back or this photograph of the field goes on forever.

Sometimes it’s all I can do not to join you in that black & white burning

grass, beneath stained slipknot, and make love to the world

as one, within the long shadows of dead horses.


John Sibley Williams is one of the cofounders of the Inflectionist poetry movement and edits its flagship journal, The Inflectionist Review. He has edited two volumes of Northwest poetry, Alive at the Center and Motionless from the Iron Bridge, and produced nine poetry collections, including Disinheritance and Controlled Hallucinations. Mr. Williams is a five-time Pushcart nominee and has won the Vallum Award for Poetry and the Confrontation Poetry Prize, among other plaudits. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and works as a freelance literary agent and publicist.