All Eulogies are Self-Eulogies

   —for Craig Santos Perez

 

Because it’s the rhythm, repetition,
      that sweet hollowing

 
of our mouths around the words—
                     not the words themselves—

 

that repair the sky, we enter his absence silently,

 

as arable light, as a disavowed country
        returned to, hesitantly,
           knowing everything has changed,

 

           as bullets
melted down and cast into bells.

 

No grace.      No atonement.      No mass
graves turned to temples turned to proof

 

some seas can be parted. Some seas can be parted. Some seas

 

sound like our teeth parting, then biting down
         on whatever we’ve been told

 

might help. The cost of belonging,

 

he would say, before looking down at his hands.
        From wherever we plant our hands now

 

       grows

 

a small house by a bay    we cannot escape,
a tin roof and rain
as it percusses a tin roof, soaks into our hair, and becomes no longer
                                              rain;

 

    father, here it is:

 

a makeshift altar of votive candles—one
    after another after another almost-
fallen star, with maybe a few fallen stars; no atonement,

 

      grace, maybe
           alms, maybe your harness.

 
 
 

John Sibley Williams is the editor of two Northwest poetry anthologies and the author of nine collections, including Disinheritance and Controlled Hallucinations. A five-time Pushcart nominee and winner of the Philip Booth Award, American Literary Review Poetry Contest, Nancy D. Hargrove Editors' Prize, Confrontation Poetry 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, Poet Lore, Columbia Poetry Review, Mid-American Review, Third Coast, Baltimore Review, Nimrod, RHINO, and various anthologies. He lives in Portland, Oregon.