Monday Apr 24, 2023
Monday Apr 24, 2023
Monday Apr 24, 2023
We are enswirled in this episode, Slushies, enswirled! We discuss three poems by John Sibley Willliams, two of which are ghazals. Williams’ poems are the gravitational force around which our conversation about craft, form, fluidity, identity, and the flux and spaciousness found inside poetry spirals. Williams’ poems draw the swirl of our attention not only to the choices he makes on the page but to Agha Shahad Ali’s rules for real ghazals, Williams’ poetic conversation with Tarfia Faizullah, and his nod to Kavek Akbar’s “Gloves”. There is a pun these show notes want to make about guzzling ghazals, Slushies, but we are trying hard to resist it…
At the table: Marion Wrenn, Jason Schneiderman, Kathleen Volk Miller, Dagne Forrest, Samantha Neugebauer
John Sibley Williams is the author of nine poetry collections, most recently Scale Model of a Country at Dawn (Cider Press Review Poetry Award) and The Drowning House (Elixir Press Poetry Award). He serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review, Poetry Editor at Kelson Books, and founder of the Caesura Poetry Workshop series. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his partner, twin biracial six-year-olds (one of whom is beautifully transgender), a boisterous Boston Terrier, and a basement full of horror movie memorabilia.
Author website, Facebook @ john.sibleywilliams
Ghazal for Transparency / for Reflection
My ghosts breathe accusingly—a winter mass, a mirror’s impermanent
erasure—again shaving I’m sorry from the face over my face in the glass.
It’s not just the birds—their abridged flight, the stains the sky wears today
through this washable window—but my children’s tiny hands absolving the glass.
Of guilt? Of shame? Is it his blood raging generations through my veins or this white-
washed silence compelling me to pull our history, face-by-face, from its frames of glass?
All this uneaten grain filling silo after silo—always at dusk, in my mind—swarmed now
with mealworms & mites & someone else’s hunger. How it cuts the tongue like shards of glass.
& those goddamned honeycombs, failing again. How our neighbor’s unable to keep his bees
close enough to cultivate. Our house too is a small box of dust & wing & against the glass
separating us from the world curtains blur our reflections like rain. Like stars cutting through
cloud, a sustainable song. May my girls never be dead enough to fear themselves in our glass.
Ghazal Beginning & Ending with Lines from Tarfia Faizullah
Let me break free from these lace-frail microscopic bodies.
My breath (always shared); trace it back to unmasked foreign bodies.
Taking that last winter deep into her lungs. Breathe, I remind her.
& remember me a child, Mom, not this unrecognizable foreign body.
The sky’s aperture widens. Sight ≠ witness. The organ’s rusty song catches
in the rafters (unascended). & all this rain leaking down on us like foreign bodies.
Grey fox. White cells. Families fleeing one home for (hopes of) another.
Some borders, perhaps, are meant to be trespassed by unforeign bodies.
Row after perfect row = harvest. Harvest ≠ everyone is fed. Sated. Breaking
up from the earth beneath, star thistle & bindweed. To us, foreign bodies.
The day an autumn orphan, & we’re yanking roots. My daughter’s tiny
misgendered fingers in mine, (pulling. Together), no body is foreign.
Field of Anchors
— for Kaveh Akbar
Darkness on both sides.
& wild grasses. Sun-hurt.
Browning. So as not to drift.
Too far from shore. A man.
Palms the tiny church inside.
The warm casing. Inside a god.
Prays to another god. For more.
Of himself. More devotion.
One more detonation. Of roses.
Less blood next time. Less field.
Without end. Or is it more.
That’s required to make a mirror.
Of each window. All that untilled light.
All that goddamn reflection.
The old maple out back. No longer.
A noose swinging from it. Lifts its arms.
In praise of its leaves. Fallen & otherwise.
Only a god. My grandmother promised.
Can beat the trees. Of its birds. Can lullaby.
The field into paradise. Only fear can.
Halleluiah the anchors from their green.
Deerless. Wolf-filled. Moorings. Or is it.
Love. When I open the front gate. Rusting.
Still. Despite drought. Despite me. I hear.
My children playing with. The blood inside.
The roses. Inside the bullet. An impossible anchor.
A darkness. That gives a people. Its name.