The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


John Sibley Williams

Dear Noah


There is no boat big enough to un-ruin, no flood more violent than our own. Like a ghost haunted by itself, we move along old scars terrified of what would happen if left to heal. A blast in Kabul last night: six bodies, three children. Walls are being built along the southern lip of a country right now, as we speak. What else would it sound like if not godvoice, threat undercut with enough hope to slip an ark through. I cannot blame you anymore for tracing your finger over imagined horizons. My brother returned home husked & empty. So many papers collect on our rickety porch. Even Everest is underwater.




John Sibley Williams

When instinct matures into will, we can finally have a go at cruelty





Sometimes I miss bearing my teeth without menace, from hunger alone ripping into weaker animals, taking only what my body demands. Feral without being brutal, trembling with all I have but cannot own. Owning my hands. Owning the blood on my hands. Never asking for forgiveness & being forgiven.






Give me back the ache. Six children killed in Kabul yet nothing stirs the birds from our oak. The horizon sits precisely where we left it. Fat with faith. Fat, faithful, choosing what to feel, feeling nothing.






Invent a story that ends just short of its beginning. Raw & rural. Ache & echo. As if we have ever been more by being less. Immigrants beautiful under stadium lights. Before that, a small collection of losses. & before there were things to lose, simply fur & claw, gesture, consequence.






Bit by bit the bomb steals what no-body has enough of to offer; offer them everything, I tell my daughter. When they come, revert to violence without fury. Show your teeth, bite down, & if you’re full, release them back to the wild, without mercy.




JOHN SIBLEY WILLIAMS is the editor of two Northwest poetry anthologies and the author of nine collections, including Disinheritance and Controlled Hallucinations. A seven-time Pushcart nominee, John is the winner of numerous awards, including the Philip Booth Award, American Literary Review Poetry Contest, Nancy D. Hargrove Editors' Prize, Confrontation Poetry Prize, 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, The Massachusetts Review, Poet Lore, Saranac Review, Atlanta Review, Arts & Letters, Columbia Poetry Review, Mid-American Review, Poetry Northwest, Third Coast, and various anthologies. He lives in Portland, Oregon.



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