On Our Way Home

John Sibley Williams


Last night
between the moonlight’s
dashboard strum and
the world passing
us by, I heard a cat in heat—
that could have easily been a child,
our child to-be—convulsing
in a dark roadside gulch,

furious, frenzied, falling in
and out of love
with the consequences
of animal need.

It was the sound
of seed awaiting rupture,
a map of blood shrinking
back to where it started.
A deep and penitent howl
mushroom clouding out
into ether, lost
among countless other
barren songs.

It would be dawn
before the driveway
calmed our music to tears.
How long the road
it took to return us here,
like sand slowly conquering



Before Memoir

John Sibley Williams


Wood-grain eyes. Sawdust lungs.
Voice like an abandoned coal mine
but a voice, nonetheless.

Once I thought I’d pulled
the whole earth out
from the gap between
his frayed suit sleeve
and my wrist.

Though nothing quite fits anymore,
on nights like this I like to live

in that memory, just for a moment
to believe each seed
has a field growing in it.




Flotillas of frog song
thick with nostalgia.
Throats wide, inviting
that first drop of rain.

Amber notes. Drowned roots.
The wooden stag he carved for me
chipped and flaked.
An old Sunday suit. The earth.
My wrist. The gap.

I still have a few things
they didn’t mean to leave here.




My parents and their
parents, huddled there,
rubbing together the flints

that light me. We all burn
like sandalwood
with its scent peeled away,

evenly, unnoticed,

navigating that dark
bloody current,
waiting to be forgotten;

I am saying




there’s a chance.

We are hearts
oaring through the people
that follow.

I think I’m saying yes, some nights
they will know we aren’t missing.



"Fundamentally, both 'Before Memoir' and 'On Our Way Home' are generational, focusing on parents and children, though using starkly different methods and structures. In 'On Our Way Home,' a couple much like my wife and I share a fairly common experience (they hear a cat in heat howling from the roadside) that emotionally connects to their pregnancy and future miscarriage. 'Before Memoir' is a bit more complicated. The narrator provides a litany of emotionally charged objects unintentionally passed down from dead family members. Including both physical artifacts and personal attributes, this list composes a portrait of where he has come from, why he is how he is, and perhaps where he is going. In these poems I hope to investigate the idea of legacy from different angles, though always with the simultaneous goal of building upon what is broken and breaking apart what has been built."

John Sibley Williams is the author of eight collections, most recently Controlled Hallucinations (FutureCycle Press, 2013). Four-time Pushcart nominee, John serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review and Board Member of the Friends of William Stafford. A few previous publishing credits include: American Literary Review, Third Coast, Nimrod, Rio Grande Review, Inkwell, Cider Press Review, Bryant Literary Review, Cream City Review, RHINO, and various anthologies. He lives in Portland, Oregon.