Sycamores

by John Sibley Williams

Dying two hundred times
with as many rebirths
sounds like a lot of 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, the Philip Booth Award, the Phyllis Smart-Young Prize, and the 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 The Yale Review, North American Review, The Midwest Quarterly, The Southern Review, Sycamore Review, Prairie Schooner, Saranac Review, Atlanta Review, TriQuarterly, and various anthologies. Visit him at https://www.johnsibleywilliams.com.