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human hours by John Sibley Williams

another lung collapses : soot

blackens an already un-

lit interior : somewhere

between flight & fall a man

i’ll eventually resemble

once i’ve scrubbed these

stars from my eyes breaks

down at a kitchen table

between generations that

struggle to want to hold him

: too many birds to count

constellate on the naked

branch outside : outside he

interrogates a winter wood

pile with an axe that fails

to split his questions open

into answers : no into maybe

into just this once into please :

my children cut & paste his name

on a poorly folded paper crane

& dance it wildly in the cigar-

heavy air : a body’s length away

a body begins its thinning : music

from a tinfoil antenna holds back

our silence : sweeps the static up

in its mighty arms & sways it

across the lawn : shallow prints :

deepening snow : that wartime frigate

every night he weeps over : privately :

that’s reached us as flame & fist :

sets out to bloody or save another

country : & the axe too heavy to lift

& the crane with his name beating itself

against the window to rejoin the birds outside


John Sibley Williams is the author of nine 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).). His book Sky Burial: New & Selected Poems is forthcoming in translated form by the Portuguese press do lado esquerdo. A twenty-seven-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.

Art by Andy K. Smith


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