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Self-Portrait as Soft Rot

This is how the waking goes: sickly
sweet trill of birdsong against glass
the near-transparent world returned
to life sharpening figures my mouth
rounds into that first silent syllable
that proves the dream hasn’t ended
in the expected kind of light I think
there’s too much blood in my body
while under another’s sky too much
blood finds its way out of a body I
know each contains a river colored
copper by paper mills by its bank
steadily eroding a lone deer skeletal
in its wintering coat although it’s far
from winter though the first wound
cuts deep after that everything is all
soft rot & squirm acceptance maybe
our smaller violences begin as mis-
translated prayers if there is a boy
about my age waking right now to a
halfway gone home bombed down
to three walls some sky for a roof &
maybe if he hasn’t shattered yet yes
until he shatters the waking sounds
something like sparrows muffled by
glass the earth barely there yet there

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.

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