—for Kazim Ali

Yesterday it was leaves, now snow
suffocates the seeds. What’s meant

to flower flowers underground or
not at all or we haven’t the kind

of eyes that recognize color breaking
earth, skyward, toward us, our feet —


which have always been another word
for crush, which is how we get to know


greening things. But any wound will do.
Really, any weather can hurt or be hurt

by our raised & restless hands. A sudden light
razors down from the heavens & strikes

like a father’s fist an unempty field.
One then another tree sparks & smolders.

Seeds displace. Seeds refuse to displace.
Because we too were planted offseason,


my father says, as if to calm the dead
& dying seeds inside me. Go ahead,

let things see your brief bloom, your wilting.
Say this world is worth its trembling.

Lashed & anchored to the front of each ship,
a woman—breasts carved from dark oak,
all the wildness sanded down, polished out;
half human, half fish, a grotesque fantasy
every boy raised within earshot of an ocean
has touched himself under the covers of night
envisioning in bed beside him. How we love
running our hands along the bow of another’s
impossible body. When no one is looking,
how even the old sailors who’ve broken
& been broken by flesh & blood women
weep at this promise, unfulfilled. Opening
one to the next, whitecaps pour secrets into
& steal those same secrets from each other.
Ashen clouds collect themselves into storm.
It’s too easy to lament we’ve wasted our lives.
The women we’ve made to withstand us
withstand us.

John Sibley Williams
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