Tell me what not to do with heaven-
faced children torn between parents
who are torn apart by a river tearing
a long muddy scar into this long &
lengthening landscape. Then tell me
again why we are the only animal
bound by maps, shifting allegiances.
Tell me what not to forgive of stars;
what skin my skin is forbidden from
touching; what heart my heart can-
not possibly hold without breaking.
Don’t tell me the best way to break
a body without damaging the shell.
We all know how that story ends.
Ask the bridled horses. Ask mothers
waiting by docks for warships never
to return. Ask any long, cold winter
night in any part of any country any
child has ever fled to find herself no
closer to home. Please tell me what
road that begins in ruin ends
John Sibley Williams is the author of nine poetry collections, most recently Disinheritance. An
eleven-time Pushcart nominee and winner of various awards, John serves as editor of The
Inflectionist Review. Publications include: Yale Review, Atlanta Review, Prairie Schooner,
Midwest Quarterly, Sycamore Review, Massachusetts Review, Columbia, Third Coast, and