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

and sinks


Trees silence.

Children no longer

cast pebbles at each other

or across the surface.

Waves retire

from returning them.

Fewer voices to drown in.

Fewer shadows,

though each elongate

until both mountains

twine together.

Twilight flattens

one thigh against the dock’s

harsh, fishless wood.

The fishermen have returned

home to weep, hungry.

But we remain,

half-submerged feet

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,

what drowns

also swims

and sleeps like a winter lake,

stuck stubbornly

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.

Vehemently, silence

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,

           we flourish.

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

           was enough.

The curtains were one with the wind.

Lost to the relentless clock,

we were one with both. Mirrors

proved us laughing, so alone

            our joy

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.

            With you

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.

             With you

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

like certainty?

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.