Sycamores

by John Sibley Williams

Dying two hundred times
with as many rebirths
sounds like a lot work;
 
papering the earth red
without so much as a war,
no sacrifice, tears, eulogy.
 
& never the same sparrows,
never knowing more than
a season or two the living
 
bodies born in your arms.
Remember how terrified
we were those long sleepless
 
nights huddled over cribs
waiting for the absence of child
to overtake us again?
 
What silence implies in a world
defined by wail. Remember when
we delivered your mother’s ashes
 
to the brook & how long it took
to look at water the same way?
If only our children were trees
 
we could watch them ghost
all winter — shiver whitely, leafless,
barely breathing — without all these
 
terrible prayers. We could celebrate
how light returns as swiftly & forever
as when it left us.

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), Summon
(JuxtaProse Chapbook Prize, 2019), Disinheritance, and Controlled Hallucinations. A twenty
three-time Pushcart nominee, John is the winner of numerous awards, including the Wabash
Prize for Poetry, Philip Booth Award, Phyllis Smart-Young Prize, and Laux/Millar Prize. He
serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review and works as a freelance poetry editor and literary
agent. Previous publishing credits include: Yale Review, North American Review, Midwest
Quarterly, Southern Review, Sycamore Review, Prairie Schooner, Saranac Review, Atlanta
Review, TriQuarterly, and various anthologies. Visit him at https://www.johnsibleywilliams.com.

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