Poetry

On Being Told: You Must Learn to Love the Violence

John Sibley Williams

Like a man who sets himself on fire
on purpose every night without quite
achieving ash. This is something like
saying every stain, every scar makes
a home on the surface of a body
it can’t penetrate. Why can’t I mainly be
a body sturdied by love? Though sometimes,
when I feel the city dreaming itself innocent
around me again, it’s true I want to liberate
the steel-springed horses from the park where my
son has learned to take and do his harm
and see how much wild is really left us. Sometimes
I want to be recognized for what I’m not,
yet. I want to show I burn, and burn bright
as the gods we’re meant to fashion ourselves from.
Bright as rage, as good-bye, as a throat
unzipped to give the bullets their voice. If finally
this voice was the sound a man makes. Something like
the sound a man is supposed to make.

John Sibley Williams is editor of two Northwest poetry anthologies and the author of nine collections, including Disinheritance and Controlled Hallucinations. He serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review and works as a literary agent.
Originally published:
November 1, 2017

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