On Being Told: You Must Learn to Pray

John Sibley Williams

For the occasional carcass
dragged skyward by crows.

All those little mouths hungering
inside our mouths. The silence

we resist in ourselves as much as
for the silence we honor in others.

Paper lanterns freed upon a calm
paper lake. Not for the lake, really,

but the way the candles balance there,
for a while. For a nearly empty hand-

ful of grandfather’s thinning hair.
The wars he retreats to at night

while starlessly
coughing into a pillow.

For all ruined monoliths. Enduring
mountains gone to ruin by the earth, settling.

Watching my hands unmake what they have taken
decades to try to make beautiful.

Only beautiful; not holy.
Not sky, really; just a little closer.

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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