21 | Land Management | No Hands

Land Management

                       The fields are a dog-eared book.

            The best passages wear our fingerprints. The arable
                                               all used up. Then planted & sown again.

                                                                                    Everywhere

dust rises up & resettles. A combine batters & builds. You are inside
                                                            rearranging your bedroom again so it looks

                          a bit less like your father’s, his father’s. Until you get used to it that way

                                                            the field’s going

                                                                        & returning to us
                                                                                                every generation
                                                                                                            seems an undeserved

                                                                                                                        gift.

                                                 & sometimes even then.


No Hands

Regardless, the wheel steadies on.
Fields blur into other fields. Things

are born & unflower or deflower
every acre. The highway moves

without being moved by. You & I
& what of home fits in a pickup bed.

In the vacuum of passage, night
animals go about mapping bodies,

singling out the weak. We are failing
what we fail to notice. An entire city

in the rearview burning with torches,
hunger, dead flags reborn. We call this flight

to wash our hearts of it. We call these wings.
Courage. Progress. Agency. No hands yet

the road just keeps going—for us. Again
we’ve left before another’s fire becomes our own.


john sibley williams is the author of As One Fire Consumes Another (Orison Poetry Prize, 2019), Skin Memory (Backwaters Prize, University of Nebraska Press, 2019), Summon (JuxtaProse Chapbook Prize, 2019), Disinheritance, and Controlled Hallucinations. A twenty-two time Pushcart nominee, John is the winner of numerous awards, including the Wabash Prize for Poetry, Philip Booth Award, American Literary Review Poetry Contest, Laux/Millar Prize, Phyllis Smart-Young Prize, Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize, and others. He serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review and works as a poetry editor and literary agent. Previous publishing credits include: The Yale Review, North American Review, Midwest Quarterly, Southern Review, 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.