JOHN SIBLEY WILLIAMS
JOHN SIBLEY WILLIAMS
Instructions for Banishment
First line your threshold with salt.
Shower your dead loved ones with
insults to keep them from weighing
down the cold half of the mattress.
If you ever get around to sleeping
again, don’t dream heavenly. Stay
close to bone, breath. Breathe dust
and bacon fat and whatever reminds
a house that you are in it. Never
forget that you are in it. Scuffed-up
shoes and jeans worn at the knees;
stop praying. Stop playing at prayer.
Let everything not bolted down drift
out onto the lawn with the first rain.
Let it rust there. Leave timelessness
to do with the past what it must.
And with your body, and what’s not
entirely body. I know how hard it is
to arrest a song as it crescendos to a
deafening roar, then flatlines. Forget
the lives you took, or failed to take.
After all, we were at war, or a peace
lasted too long. We are never really
at peace long enough to suffer it.
Wrap your fever in cheesecloth and
wait for the throbbing to subside. It
will never subside. I know regret is
just another form of lust. Surviving
your children is collateral damage.
There is no end to why. There is no
end. Throw some salt over your left
shoulder. Cut the throat of every
chicken in your neighbor’s yard and
bathe in their blood. Eat their hearts.
Try on all sorts of silences until you
find one that fits. Like a glove. Like
a mask, a mansuit. Anything to hush
the voices. Then never take it off.
Minotaur // Dylann Roof
If you want peace, you don’t talk to
your friends. You talk to your enemies.
— Desmond Tutu
Left alone with your body this long.
No touch but carnage. No father but
a beast groomed for sacrifice. Like
the lesser gods before you, terrible,
hollow, utterly sincere in your need
for flesh between your teeth. It does
not matter that the labyrinth you try
to own owns you. No heroes in this
story. There have never been heroes
or villains in our story. Just want &
want & want &, in the end, a greater
want. An open-handed blow. Blood.
An unbroken church. Endless paths
tracing the same circles. Your skin,
untouched but by itself, becomes its
John Sibley Williams is the editor of two Northwest poetry anthologies and the author of nine collections, including Disinheritance and Controlled Hallucinations. A ten-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, TriQuarterly, Columbia Poetry Review, Mid-American Review, Poetry Northwest, Third Coast, and various anthologies. He lives in Portland, Oregon.