The Shallows

by John Sibley Williams

Sea split open
throat to groin,
urchins and five
limbed stars
spilling out.

A row of unnamed
blue boats on land
await christening.
A row of matching
blue houses lean stilted
over the waves.

Dawn, reddened
mountains everywhere.
The heavens’ burning
is reflected upside down
in tide pool shallows.
The horizon bends low,
leveling the distance
between us,
so we can converse.

I converse by touch.

I hold up my thumb
and forefinger, pinch
sun and moon together
like folds of baby skin
before injection.

I shove rocks in my mouth
to stave off drowning.

I strip the oysters
of their pearls,
fashion necklaces
for my dead.

I like to think
most things begin
that in some other language
all this would be beautiful.


John Sibley Williams is the editor of two Northwest poetry anthologies and the author of nine collections, including Controlled Hallucinations (2013) and Disinheritance (forthcoming 2016). A five-time Pushcart nominee and winner of the Philip Booth Award, American Literary Review Poetry Contest, Nancy D. Hargrove Editors’ Prize, and Vallum Award for Poetry, John serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review and works as a literary agent. Previous publishing credits include: The Midwest Quarterly, december, Third Coast, Baltimore Review, Nimrod International Journal, Hotel Amerika, Rio Grande Review, Inkwell, Cider Press Review, Bryant Literary Review, RHINO, and various anthologies. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

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