sky burial

poetry 0
John Sibley Williams


+++“I looked at photographs and suddenly understood that a photograph 
+++was a letter to someone in the future.” —Rick Barot

during the pandemic, my mother was still dead. 
& when i held out two fists, my children discovered

a coin in neither. the plastic rosaries the old folks
fingered like money became money. the world

washed its hands. almost bloodless. the flesh gone all hard
& cracked. during the pandemic, our dog could finally

swallow the sky he’d long prayed to with his teeth.
& his teeth sharpened on the darkness within us. 

when my son interrogated a dead bird with a stick
i read the gesture like scripture. i understood

there’s only so much horror a body can take. only so much
song a mouth can hold before a few notes slip out. 

during the pandemic, i thought of pompeii & how beautiful
a family frozen together in time. my father separated

from touch by double-paned glass. his parkinson’s not the only
reason for tremble & tear. & my daughter asking the difference

between predator & scavenger. long before the pandemic,
we didn’t believe in pandemics. or twilight. or palindromes. 

how could absence read the same backwards? how could these
old wartime photos resemble our city today? & the vultures

willingly carrying off our scraps before the pandemic we called
transmigration. son, father, wolf: what will we sing tomorrow?

John Sibley Williams is the author of four award-winning poetry collections: The Drowning HouseScale Model of a Country at DawnAs One Fire Consumes Another, and Skin Memory. A twenty-seven-time Pushcart nominee and winner of various awards, John serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review and founder of Caesura Poetry Workshop.