Dobby Gibson lives in St. Paul, Minnesota. His poems appear in New England Review, Crazyhorse, Another Chicago Magazine, Third Coast, Spout and Conduit.
Long Fence Sunrise
First there was a horrible storm
followed shortly thereafter by a storm,
and when ultimately did we emerge
from our homes only old couches slouched
there half-buried in the snowmelt
beneath some redundant dramaturgy of morning sun.
We the otherwise nude had been inside,
pleading with one another, laughing, using our tongues,
then dazed on our own front stoop
by the dayís blank announcement:
even winter itself is dying.
The traffic reports had finally broadcast
what they meant to say all along,
"Stay the hell home," so we soon fled to any place
where a lonesome tractor might have sputtered
out halfway into a field and covered itself
in a turtleneck of rust, forcing all who drove
past to measure from a distance
the cosmic American puzzle:
beauty half about the showboat dying,
half about the weird hay bales
too big for any known mouth.
We had been on all fours,
praying, coupling mightily, looking for lost buttons.
First there was a storm malleting
a roaming solo of lousy xylophone.
First there was a storm we knew
to be quelled the moment another hurled
some newer precipitation at our feet.
There were many storms, a few that we chased.
There was the sound of banjos picking
hellfire bluegrass, then the sound of banjos
never to be played again.
Morning Before Light
Of all possible things to be desired
in this world of all possible things,
what bathes exclusively in the tungsten
backlight of plastic signage at the corner
of Selby and Snelling is $ALE$MAN WANTED.
And of all possible things to be hurled into a face
this morning it is a darkness
and cold violence of water spit
from above, a confessional wind
that shamelessly elicits any response it craves.
And whether torn from this or the tearer,
and whether scared by this or the terror
of the sky that eyes cannot plum,
there is nothing I can do but reach down
into pockets sewn in another land
for no particular hand but still holding
the keys to what I can only afford
to rent. And would now give anything
to be inside of instead of illicit and shivering,
going to work in the hand-me-down winter rain
I was never made for but still canít dismiss
as never made for me.
Kinetiscope of a Sneeze
Itís impossible to make much hope
out of all this ruined foliage, out of anything
people already have too much of,
plastic bags sopped black in the curbside.
So the first thing you do is try not to,
trying to remember a time before it was like this,
forced to publicly swallow your own warfare.
Like being passionately dropped
to the bathroom tiles, breeze rattling storm
windows as if it didnít know any better,
imminent detonation of the to-the-belly mouth,
the to-the-mouth mouth.
Holding your breath, itís never before
been October this suddenly.
Outside there is a leaf that has stained
the sidewalk the color of an old bruise.
And this is what the morningís mapped, electrical
zodiac could never have forecasted:
while we were longing for these leaves,
the leaves were longing for these trees.
And the trees, now leafless, now checking us
into our little motels of despair, just stand there
combing skies soon to bring snows
already elsewhere in rehearsals of plummet.
They say it may have been the last thing you ate,
the last where you breathed,
though even science guesses.
There isnít anything that couldnít end this
violently fast: what you were about to say
to your dinner guest, beloved, self.
And it wasnít until the moment you were sure
it was jailing you in a kind of forever
that you learned all is long past
and theyíre once again blessing you for creating
what you secretly tried to destroy.
Once More, with Feeling
With her on the lip of last summerís pool
it was as if I had peeked at the final page
of a mystery novel I once saw as a movie,
though remained still unable to foresee whodunit.
There we shivered beneath an eclipse,
the skyís dime winked to the flutter of leaves, hearts, kicks.
Naked ankles dangled. Water stopped lithic,
the fragile jewel of a throatís lone droplet,
sopped handprints on a skirted thigh,
neck the smell of dissolving tact.
Any moment recalled is built
of such impossibilities, though where else to heap
my mawkish slush? Where else to say breasts
were like being fervently remembered
by two foreign dignitaries I knew I had never met?
Or the sundress couldnít have been less of a container?
How else to forget we split by postcard?
The skull is such a shoddy observatory:
her hair now somehow redder, stars bigger than Texas
just stars, yesterdayís comet a frozen match strike
and the lab coats saw it coming all along.
Now science tells us weeping in the rain
makes us forty percent sadder,
this according to more sensitive research.
Now blooms of toothwart.
All of this to say she had me bundled
in hasps, knurled, knuckled, ludic,
that first kiss by the pool a bullet
in my shoulder from some old duel.
All of this to say the people I have loved
I have cooked at least one breakfast.
At this point be thankful the poem doesnít stink
of formaldehyde, so much clutter preserved:
if not a snapshot of her and me gnarled in the den,
at least one of that clashing davenport.
Throw pillows. Half gainer. Skinny dip.
Yesterday scientists released a leap second
from the atomic clock like a healed pelican
and time stood still as it has on only four occasions,
none when any met their beloved.
Yesterday a beautiful woman rode a bike
while I drank coffee in a hat.
Today thereís all this catching up to do.
Despite what all those religions think,
steeples arenít that much closer to God,
though surely He would rather the occasional cross
jab into the nape of His floofy mattress
than all these phone poles, arranged as they are
in such an obvious worship of one another, like athletes.
Probably for even the slowest atheists this week
has been track-and-field, a vault replayed slo-mo
over some enormous precipice of thaw:
itís luncheon-meat cold and even winter
rain isnít, like, totally anything new,
but it hurls itself at us like a smashed chandelier,
pocks the lawnís snow into a kind of tapioca
and now, suddenly, were groceries sought?
And if not artichoke, what to name this yearning,
the one that sends me to the street with so many keys?
The fresh produce of desire is thusly bagged
separately where its functions are misunderstood
and subatomic like hockey. Winter shadows cast dumbly
to the pavement as if from bored skydivers,
deciphered quickly like the tiny books sold near the register,
and just out of sight, a drawer full of mittens unpaired,
abandoned umbrellas, tremendous galoshes,
a rare form of beauty undependent upon
its frame that the otherwise blistered
long ago hysterically sings in its historical garden,
plainly, like a good toast. We all wonder
how a single wire holds simultaneous conversation,
what it is here that seems to have fallen from its shelf,
or if that is precisely the point: among the shelfless,
the tragedy of the putting-back is that none know
where to start. On the one hand the rules were thrown out,
on the other so much more is expected of us.