The Works of John Sibley Williams
John has an MA in Writing and resides in Boston, where he frequently performs his poetry,though summer 2009 he is moving to Portland, OR to study Book Publishing at Portland State University. He is presently compiling manuscripts composed from the last two years of traveling and living abroad. Some of his over fifty previous or upcoming publications include: The Evansville Review, Flint Hills Review, Cadillac Cicatrix, Juked, The Journal, Barnwood International Poetry, Seven Circles Press, Paradigm, Red Wheelbarrow, The Alembic, Phantasmagoria, Clapboard House, River Oak Review, Glass, Southern Ocean Review, Miranda, Language and Culture and Raving Dove.
All Poems © John Sibley Williams
A Night's Song For Lake Traunsee
The sun moves beneath the lake
Children no longer
cast pebbles at each other
or across the surface.
from returning them.
Fewer voices to drown in.
though each elongate
until both mountains
one thigh against the dock’s
harsh, fishless wood.
The fishermen have returned
home to weep, hungry.
But we remain,
like kisses of ice,
awaiting the pure
crash of night,
the weight of its entire body,
and the vicious children
whispering up from the vanished sun.
Some call love
rediscovering stones once lost,
polishing them, renaming.
Others close to me demand
anything once held
never leaves the hand,
and sleeps like a winter lake,
to one dream.
I prefer her shivering
inside me, waiting together
between the enclosing mountain shadows,
feeling the fish yet caught
whipping uncertainly against our legs.
A Song Without Music
The raw moonglow so certain.
The winged energy of tempest
married to the calm
concealed in its center.
Are you running naked
through the surf?
The sun buried deep
still warming sand and pebbles.
The contrasting murmurs,
lessons of history and rejuvenation,
reborn like a darkness
flooding the void behind a lighthouse eye.
But you like a prayer for both,
are you ever alone
in your own house?
The naked delight never quite resting,
blind to the flesh it’s offered,
seeking nothing less than everything
you haven’t yet beheld,
surging forward, an ellipses,
the full moon and its music
penetrating your body.
The one I love knows the Great Dancer
is a lamp without oil.
Do you need oil?
Are you any less naked
when the whole universe fills with light?
A Train to the Coast
In her hair
swollen by sea wind,
the eyes of potatoes, oysters
swollen by hunger,
the landscapes usually fixed
on that side of glass enter me,
whispering like a stone
sailing down below
to a pregnant crash.
Or is it the warm rails
pressed to my cheek
or the salt tongues baying
ceremoniously at sand?
Is it the cooling embers of old streets
vanishing in mist blown from the docks?
Something she doesn’t say swirls
and hisses like rusty machines
reenlisted for abandoned tasks.
like a factory
floods with life.
An awakening of limbs to whistle.
Moving steadily inward,
the designs of shells.
We’ve long disembarked.
Still, together, it rolls along
a single rapturous movement,
a single cell
composed some of each,
a hand stretching out ceaselessly
toward nothingness, glass,
returning burdened with fruit.
Such distances flatten
as a wheat field from vast
views of mountains.
My face emerges from her hair,
awoken early and bemused,
as from dream
or heavy rain.
A Village South of the River
We live secluded beneath the smokestacks and power lines
fueling a city, but it’s the land south of the river,
where the slightest rains overflow each bank
and threaten the meadow flowers and horses,
I entrust to you.
You who open windows for the storm
and speak of the sea in terms of herring caught,
who vanish into poetry, histories, and other fictions
to futilely escape self-meditation,
who begin a new conversation
two lines before completing the first,
like me who writes of you
and already feels the silent weight
following the last word.
A bridge built of our ribs arcs over the water.
You are the only path.
The vast circuitry of pure energy overhead
sizzling well past midnight , when we sleep
like stacked stones and no longer question
what keeps houses lit within.
My heart is a village
where the sun is burning out
but never quite extinguishes.
It lies south of the Danube
and is forever flooding.
As we rain together,
stripping the bark from the sun,
warring the clouds,
I spit out the stones long crammed in my mouth
and, again with meek voice and destination,
walk upon them, along the entire path,
remaining bone dry.
Accident of Clouds
It could have happened many ways
but today they drifted on opposing currents
by chance? by strategized attack?
and collided into great thundering sparks,
rival armies’ first clash, the first
always the bloodiest,
always harboring the most sensual dawns.
Two lovers prayed with their bodies all night.
All night it rained.
The sycamore’s solitary limbs split, cauterized,
and, naked, regrew together, unhappy, malformed.
Even now the horses cannot rest,
awaiting smoldering barn fire
but no tinder catches.
In safety they look
across their beloved hills
and valley grown mute.
The lesson has changed somehow.
For some reason they keep seeking
a fallen candle or shattered lantern.
In these suffering times, our shoes
trekking blood squeezed from words,
the city blackening, the country’s angular green hills
tasting like lumps undissolved in coffee,
They make the common mistake
that we need each other
by morning’s peaceful repose,
when they have their own
hands to hold, and, yes,
I vividly recall the supple light
reflecting your sleeping flesh
and your smile of calmest sea
and the long pauses between need
to express our love, when barren silence
The curtains were one with the wind.
Lost to the relentless clock,
we were one with both. Mirrors
proved us laughing, so alone
that night walks held no shadows,
when suffering defined a certain malady
shared by so many yesterdays
instead of a condition.
But in these times when others
genuflect, repent, or suicide,
when bodies part on separate voyages,
when charcoal veils the smells
of what’s buried beneath the gardens,
our immersion deep into the darkness
entwines us closer, fueling fear
and strength into bonfires licking the night sky.
How high they ascend! In pain
but never solitude. Cast to tears
but never drifting. Our souls
warm each other. Our blood froths and boils
in our mouths. Ferocious
warriors desiring naught but survival,
lumps silently quivering beneath bed sheets
then bounding to raze our clothes
and heart’s walls
and worlds until
a frantic race into night
bears no shadows either.
it all crumbles and rebuilds and I stand
taller than a cloud. Our fear opens the sky.
Our kiss glows blue upon the day.
Before I’d say “let them drown in themselves”,
the quicksand of serenity,
but now “let them build arks”, like ours,
for in twilight’s throbbing obscurity
their wide eyes are ours, the moon’s,
their blood is one blood, in our mouths.
it all crumbles and I feel the Earth
quake and squirm and bloom
in the most desperate love,
the only love
keeping the city and country
from eroding into the vast green sea,
vanishing like desire into the clock’s cold hands.
Those Washed by the Sea
I am the first to tumble gray
through the ruddy pallor, the unmistakable
grin with its long, delicate tongue
forked veins I accept rounded,
dull into me.
Gulls, terns, unpredictable ravens.
Exchange your writhing catch,
your half-digested insects, your feathers,
for a word or two on your beauty
and your praiseworthy, insistent pecking
this dawn from my palm.
Of the newborn suns I’ve known
pristine as newly-awakened kisses
and slow memories of four-handed pianoing,
the one catching this fiery black sea crest
will not fade like a clown’s joy
nor a tree’s steady reflection,
for I am two steps behind it
and cannot outstretch my arms.
I cannot see myself in the erupting rebirth
so how can it pass on to the next?
How can it pass into disappeared friends
like a wind-struck flag
Blood crusts the tattered rags
dawn gives me to cleanse it.
Dried, all fluids gray and leave echoing rings.
Those washed by the sea
are no exception.