by John Sibley Williams

The sloping trees overhead wear black vultures
lamenting that some men don’t kill as often as others,
their act of being freed translating differently
in the seconds after a river’s submersion,
pristine white robes fanning across the surface
as in a river the sun reflects abnormally pure,
some saint’s ridiculously glamorous shield.

The cold water rushes like a dream of God
over face after face, that appear dead
until plucked as olives might in Peloponnesian fields.
Branches pass. Branches fallen by storm and axe.
Branches tortoises recline upon, eyes closed,
adopting not breaking the current.

And stones pass. And sediment mucked from movement.
And the gunshots of newly awoken hunting season
volley through the valley-heightened winds.
And I witnessing these varied salvations
from a dry perch just between
know which sound enraptures the vultures
but must crane my ear to water’s surface
to pray that second command emerges.

John Sibley Williams has an MA in Writing and resides in Portland, OR, where he frequently performs his poetry, works with Three Muses Press, Ooligan Press, and HoboEye, and studies Book Publishing at Portland State University. His poetry was nominated for the 2009 Pushcart Prize. Some of his over 100 previous or upcoming publications include The Evansville Review, Ellipsis, Flint Hills Review, Euphony, Open Letters, Cadillac Cicatrix, Juked, The Journal, Hawaii Review, Cutthroat, The Furnace Review, Red Wheelbarrow, Aries, The Alembic, Clapboard House, and River Oak Review. Find him online at

Editor’s note: “Baptismal” is reprinted here. It first appeared in Clapboard House (Spring 2009).

Back to Issue Eight: Summer 2010