a nation that isn’t broken
but simply unfinished
— Amanda Gorman, “The Hill We Climb”
not far off / a refinery flares methane. targets scatter
at a rifle’s clap & clamor. another empty
silo at dusk & nothing / to be done about it.
tonight the night dismantles / into its constitutional
elements. white hands white- / knuckling torches.
civil / war statues holding / starless vigils. an infant’s
toy gun pressed / against his mother’s / temple. fingers
too soft to / bang! / bullet too soft / to exit. lullaby &
shrapnel & goodnight. all these / talking animals
my children believe / truer than the splintering / fenceposts
keeping our fences / briefly / in place. the unmapped
country of their no-longer- / innocent hearts. / everything
that’s meant to hurt hurts the way it’s meant to. this shared stigmata / of
skyline. of chalk & outline. breached building. breached body. / with each breaking,
she promises, a new beginning. / brutal as sunlight. / as song. our song. / nothing
unmakes a martyr like a body’s deep song.
JOHN SIBLEY WILLIAMS is the author of seven poetry collections, including Scale Model of a Country at Dawn (Cider Press Review Poetry Award), 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, 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 founder of the Caesura Poetry Workshop series. Previous publishing credits include Best American Poetry, Yale Review, Verse Daily, North American Review, Prairie Schooner, and TriQuarterly.