SELF-PORTRAIT WITH MOJAVE
White as a picked apart cattle skull,
clean & sober as its dismantling,
our eyes grown accustomed to seeing
ghosts seek out other kinds of horror.
Enormous horse hides fill the walls.
A Winchester rides high over pictures
of a blacked & whited history. The people
who’ve called this place home longer
than we’ve been Americans squat outside
a gas station sipping at bottles we gave
them in compensation, in apology.
As kids we’d drag the shed part of snakes
home to decorate a stone mantle
that never needed to know fire.
How we’d light it anyway
to let the land know
we’re not going anywhere.
How we’d let the water cupped
in our hands escape back to the basin
& think it thirst.
John Sibley Williams is the editor of two Northwest poetry anthologies and the author of nine collections, including Disinheritance and Controlled Hallucinations. He is the winner of numerous awards, including the Philip Booth Award, American Literary Review Poetry Contest, Nancy D. Hargrove Editors’ Prize, Confrontation Poetry Prize, and Vallum Award for Poetry. He serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review and works as a literary agent. Previous publishing credits include: Yale Review, Midwest Quarterly, Sycamore Review, Prairie Schooner, Massachusetts Review, Poet Lore, Saranac Review, Atlanta Review, TriQuarterly, Columbia Poetry Review, Mid-American Review, Poetry Northwest, Third Coast, and various anthologies.