What My Mother Meant to Say That Night


Because men do what they want to do, & the night just keeps skimming quarters from the till when it thinks no one is looking. No one is looking when the hinged thing in my chest swings wide & full, then empty of itself, creaks closed forever. Of late, alone like that, in a middle distance between my body & another’s tally of my body, maps redrawn & walls where a wide, lit, temporary pasture used to be, the stars are trembling from the weight of dreams. If home is the one place we cannot return to & now is the only home we’ll ever know, she tells me, how to explain your tiny hand in mine—home, now —kneading bread for your father asleep upstairs in a half-empty bed I half-pretend to share, how before he wakes the waking doesn’t matter, & after I’m gone, how hungry you will both be.

John Sibley Williams is the editor of two Northwest poetry anthologies and the author of nine collections, including Disinheritance and Controlled Hallucinations. A seven-time Pushcart nominee, John is the winner of numerous awards, including the Philip Booth Award, American Literary Review Poetry Contest, Nancy D. Hargrove Editors' Prize, Confrontation Poetry Prize, and Vallum Award for Poetry. He serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review and works as a literary agent. Previous publishing credits include: The Yale Review, Midwest Quarterly, Sycamore Review, Prairie Schooner, The Massachusetts Review, Poet Lore, Saranac Review, Atlanta Review, TriQuarterly, Columbia Poetry Review, Mid-American Review, Poetry Northwest, Third Coast, and various anthologies. He lives in Portland, Oregon.