Issue 30 – 2019 – John Sibley Williams

John Sibley Williams


The Last Sunset

never mind the men who roam that myth /
horseback, fly-sheathed, defined by the lands
left to conquer, dirty / in the way of unmarried
pregnant women, how at the end of each rope
a body / all the wood it takes to make a cross
out of air / the part our grandfathers played in
breaking in the West // mind instead the sunset
forever splayed behind them, the moving into
before they called it progress / how all it takes
is a single star to read the sky // roughly drawn
paradise, without an altar



No wind no smoke no animals

The battlefield breathes freely tonight

The battlefield breathes freely tonight
beneath a bloodless moon & trees
too old to bind ropes to

The battlefield breathes freely tonight
beneath a bloodless moon & trees
too old to bind ropes to so bodiless
this sway may be beautiful again


We Carry Wildfires in Our Guts


The Carr Fire raging in Northern California is so large and hot that it is creating its own localized weather system
— CNN, July 31, 2018

As a fish market in summer.
As a church choking
on its own incense.
The air here is heavy
as a long line of men
churning like pistons
smoking whatever fits
between their lips waiting
for a bar to go neon at night.
As if our hands weren’t
always feeding furnaces.
As if we’re not living
in one of many discarded
rough drafts of heaven.
As if we ever believed
the sky breathable, lit
from above, that when
the clouds part briefly
something other than
tinder would fall.



John Sibley Williams is the author of As One Fire Consumes Another (Orison Poetry Prize, 2019), Skin Memory (Backwaters Prize, University of Nebraska Press, 2019), Disinheritance, and Controlled Hallucinations. A nineteen-time Pushcart nominee, John is the winner of numerous awards, including the Wabash Prize for Poetry, Philip Booth Award, American Literary Review Poetry Contest, Phyllis Smart-Young Prize, Nancy D. Hargrove Editors’ Prize, Confrontation Poetry Prize, and Laux/Millar Prize. He serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review and works as a literary agent. Previous publishing credits include: The Yale Review, Midwest Quarterly, Southern Review, 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.