South Texas Shadow

by John Sibley Williams

in a land of sons born motherless, wind
just a bit too willful to remain long on your face,
children refusing to turn around and face
home, and the varied repetitions
like memorized prayers chanted too often
at syphilitic wooden saints.
alone, the wind sweeps through the pews
and empties it of voices.

in a landscape raw and empty
as half-drunk eyes wild for the fight,
the sober gnashing of naked branches and juniper,
where perception is defined by absence
the way words sit upon the brain
like a feeble thrown, and on the page
never clasp as thunderous as expected.

legs kicked up toward heaven,
a half-slaughtered cow, soldier, poet.
life writes itself a corrosive shadow
that shifts with the sun’s gaze upon the mountains,
recognizes the rest is light, scant blue light
all around, deep pink flashes of lightning,
wild roses nearly the color of dust
but with such profound voices
even the artifacts buried centuries ago
can be heard repeating the sounds
of the roots tangled overhead.

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: “South Texas Shadow” is reprinted here. It first appeared in The Oklahoma Review (Spring 2009).

Back to Issue Eight: Summer 2010