John Sibley Williams

Goodbye Horses
by John Sibley Williams

my dead work their fingers   through    my son’s
gnarled & knotted hair         wilded already
from my touch           ligatures i hope translate
lovingly         once the damage is done & my
apologies     all played out       can be seen as
rehearsal for the burning       house he’ll inherit


an unmothered bird     that plumeless factory writing
itself all over the horizon         i tell him nothing
out there will hurt more than         this
brief kiss
not the steel-springed horses     rusted & reddening
in a park in a town that’s forgotten     how to child
not the bloodied noses of     this is mine everything
here is mine
& divvying up       the world unevenly
like shot marbles   not these fingers relentlessly combing
my dreams through his sleep   our dead only as dead as


a sung-out lullaby       raptured as the snapped steeple
down the street the birds congregate on     snagged &
unforgiven as       barbed woolen tufts once the wolves
have done their worst   another fence & feast & goodnight
not that our horses ever needed          breaking     this field
forever fallow     springs rooted to hard earth     this map
leading home always back home       forgive me     son
this kiss         as innocent as i can make it


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 23, Issue 1.

John Sibley WilliamsJohn Sibley Williams won the 2020 Cider Press Review Book Award for his manuscript, Scale Model of a Country at Dawn. Williams is the author of six other collections, including The Drowning House (Elixir Press Poetry Award), As One Fire Consumes Another (Orison Poetry Prize), Skin Memory (Backwaters Prize, University of Nebraska Press), and Summon (JuxtaProse Chapbook Prize). A twenty-six-time Pushcart nominee, he 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 founder of the Caesura Poetry Workshop series.

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