In the beginning the bodies were too soft
& the land too hard. Or the other way around.
But nothing interred, stayed, left a place tender
enough to visit armed with flowers, tiny animal
bones strung together into trinkets, the already
waning nostalgias meant to capture the entirety
of a life. & of a life, the living said only what
needed saying. All things being equal, turns out
all things are pretty much equal. Imagine it: all
the might it takes to forget & be okay with that
forgetting. To tear wildly into, open up, plant, &
know the animals not repulsed by death will
come for the rest. They came for the rest as one
comes to dinner, still, not invited exactly, more
called by the smell of it, that honeyed smell,
stripping ruin of its ruin, savoring it, putting to
good use the boys the earth spit back up. Earth
still spits, I’m told by the people stripped of all
but a few arid acres, gifted as a sort of apology,
amends. They tell me the land is still too hard or
too soft & the bodies that can’t enter it.
—for Abigail Chabitnoy
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-two-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, TriQuarterly, and various anthologies.