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Mark Leigh Gibbons


This

When His Sister Died

Shopping the Mercado

Hepatitis 1

Hepatitis 2

Naked Singularity


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This


Think of this as some golden
Scythian ornament - a necklace I suppose -
buried for centuries
in a forgotten despot's hoard.

This has been hidden so long
it remains the only evidence
of the ones who secreted it away.

I have polished it clean;
burnished brilliant with
odd-scented chemicals.
Who made it? Don't ask me.

But oh, some voyeur of animals
sitting in Asian forests knew
what brave pulse filled an antelope's
haunch as it swerved from the wolf at its back.

Put it round your neck,
anonymous amulet, light dazzler,
vanity's own anodyne.
Perhaps you'll feel it there
before you speak again.


When His Sister Died


At thirty, when his sister died
he'd inherited three small nephews
three months ago.

Christmas carried them through
the initial slump.
But now it was February.

A sleety Sunday rattled windows.
Perhaps the power would fail.
They couldn't go out to play.

It was not for nothing he'd read
issue after issue of Family Circle
waiting in line at the supermarket in grad school.

So for two hours he made cookies.
Chocolate chip, lemon vanilla -
each with a centered walnut chip.

Quite good really, he thought.
But the middle child kept asking,
"When will Mommy come home?"

A live-in maid helped a lot
with washing, daily cooking
and all those routine things.

He and the children were tired of cookies.
They didn't want to watch TV
or color. But they'd light a fire.

Nibbling cookies in front of the hearth,
they burrowed in sleeping bags.
He sipped wine and played records,

And then after an hour or so
right in the middle of the Beach Boys
singing "In My Room" he started crying.

Not weeping but tearing and he couldn't stop.
Billie Holliday didn't help,
Nor did the original soundtrack of "Oklahoma."

The kids stared at him and he said,
"I'm practicing crying now that I'm not sad
So that I'll know how to do it better when I'm sad."

They asked to play too. The oldest managed
to work up a tear or two to the Steve Miller Band's
"Jet Airliner." They all cried to "White Rabbit."

The middle nephew ran upstairs to find
"Teddybear's Picnic" which, he thought,
would leave no eye dry. It worked.

A horrible memory of "Uncle Wiggly
in Connecticut" made him refill his glass,
and consider stopping the game.

But by then the youngest kid, just three,
couldn't stop crying - even between songs.
He didn't know what pretending was.


Shopping the Mercado

Under the volcano
foothills outside Cuernavaca
sprout chartreuse
and fuschia mushrooms
big as cantaloupes.
Indian women weathered
like walnuts sell them
as if they were magic spells.
Let's say they
don't ring them up
under produce.
I've been wanting
you here ever since
I spotted the mottled,
fat, slimy boletes
which I carry now
in a cone of newspaper
toward a cocktail party
where I think they might
let me cook them up
and eat them alone
in the kitchen.

God, how right you were
when you said:
It takes a pig to find a truffle.

Hepatitis 1

Dawn's thin hum drowned out in wakeful summer light,
holding my stomach in, I begin
the inventory of my symptoms: piss -
bright yellow; whites of eyes - more of a wash;
my fingernails perhaps won't turn at all!
My body is a mess and always was;
but my mind, that old invention of self,
primping for compliments down some dank cave,
my mind hungers for newspapers and print
to fill its guilty vacancy with tropes -
guilty because its body is sick - why else?
I drive two blocks for every fresh paper,
coffee? - No tea, thank you, and commit
the day's first indiscretion in the form
of a fat, greasy, sweet, underdone donut -
No fried foods, scolds my physician.

Hepatitis turned out to be less awesome
than everyone expected. I kept checking
for changes; pounds lost, exhaustion, sick stomach,
headaches. But all I could muster
was a long nap every afternoon.

Hepatitis 2


The June of my summer
of hepatitis
began like any other
except for laryngitis
which finally took my voice
and boxed it in like a forced hiss;
no longer had I a choice
of speaking or being remiss
in speech. In gestures I poked
up meanings. And we all joked.

That over, I washed through fourth
of July fire water in
martini glasses and beers
on my back looking for the North
Star. One afternoon amid the cheers
from the boat-clogged bay
we though we'd might as well begin
the celebration early with some gin
and tonic and a box of fire-
works. The sun down, we got higher
and someone let a brilliant fire-
ball from a Roman candle fall
in the big georgian fireworks box.
What followed were a few
minutes I wish had lasted all
summer. And Yes the rockets flew
toward the Senator's brother's house,
the investment banker came out to douse
his scorched lawn, and the tipsy crew
in the rafted sailboats blew
air horns. The air smelled of sulfur smoke,
stray blockbusters, ashcans, salutes,
cherry bombs and a few exotic beauts
I don't have names for. We took a toke
each from a fat joint.
It was all an expensive joke.
But none of this is to the point.
My hepatitis summer
made time go out of joint.

A week later I started having spells;
hyperesthetic, I flushed at all the smells
that rushed from low tide to the house, the room,
the bed where unexpected daylight dreams
wrapped me in their scents. I floated like a silk work cocoon,
or rather like the hibernating worm
doing its best to cooperate with that
it can't help anyway.

Naked Singularity

"But if a naked singularity could ever be created, the whole of science would have to be abandoned." -- Black Holes by John G. Taylor

I have been killing time
in this space since classes ended:
Warped, craped, bent - as if
sitting too long with a full bladder.

Today, the longest day, or, shortest night
of the year, I dropped in on what we call
a travel agency. Now my brown room,
strewn with bright folders;
the agents of travel have launched another assault.

A year ago today I stood
at noon in Mexico
below the Tropic of Cancer
and watched my shadow
shrivel to a cool stain
on top of the pyramid of the sun.

Dying for significance -
some bright visitation,
a signal, any sign of
something other than myself -
I held my breath trying to faint:
but I wasn't up to it
and a cloud protected the sun
from my advances.

It was a real poemkiller of a cloud,
a great dark hook yanking me off stage.
Haven't I rehearsed enough?
You say that I should act my age;
but I'll always like that stuff,
magic and revelation in the rough.

Back in the warm hotel
I took a shower;
decidedly naked and single.

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