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Mark Leigh Gibbons


The Boys At L Street Beach

Feeding Frenzy

Endangered Species

The Last Leper of Saint-Lazare

Views of Lisbon

Vine

A July Revolution in Zihuatanejo 1974



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The Boys At L Street Beach


Everyone is a boy at L Street;
even the octogenarian walnuts
paunching over their pendulous scrota
each inch of skin browned by sun or age spots.
The L Street Brownies swim every day
and on New Year's cavort for TV cameras
in the icy bay,
They slap each other
on their pear-shaped bare asses
and call out boyhood nick-names:
"Hey, Micka, howsah boy?"
"Not badadall, Carrot Top, You old Pip, howsa game?
"Dink's move, but I got the old fart trapped,"
"Attago, Micka, keep it up ... ha ha ha."

Flashing wet and running naked also
in the hazy summer the real boys
sport their new-grown pubic hair
and mock the sad old men
simply by having tight flat guts and butts.
They kick sand in the face of the past
and the past loves it and comes back
each sunny day to ask for more.


Feeding Frenzy


The tide too low for fishing
from the pier's slack end
we came to feed the minnows with some bread.

The morning sun had burned the fog away;
a turning tide eased skiffs against the wind
that paused and sought direction from the bay.

No air for sailing, we maundered on the edge
of purpose, dropped bread crumbs, and watched
them spin on eddies and then sink

to where the minnows hovered among weeds,
clamshells, and the undulating surface
of the harbor's slimy bottom.

Like droning biplanes off toward the cape
Fat chubs on automatic pilot swam straight
for nourishment on a beam of bread scent,

They seized a goal, tugged and swallowed it.
Others followed as if signaled
toward breadcrumbs sifting through the ripples.

I dropped a whole slice in the midst of them;
they scattered, turned back on their own fear
and swarmed in circles around the hookless bait.

A feeding frenzy Spun around the bread
Settled toward a single point, the wind
and tide homed in on purpose and another day.

8/26/77


Endangered Species


Carnegie Mellon, III, Professor of Economics
Emeritus, and author of the recent pamphlet
"You Can't Burn Gold" sat in the front row
fiddling with his hearing aid. He kept
muttering, "Why are they talking about animals?"

Under the wise and benevolent leadership
of HRH Prince Philip the international
committee for the Preservation of
Endangered Species has mapped out
a grim future for our friends
of feather, fur and f-in.
Where can we begin?
In the classroom?
From the pulpit?
We must get to the culprit!

Cows, Chinese, Pigs, Sheep and Indians
seem to be in no danger.
And certainly we have enough
Norwegian rats, Mexicans, krill
and Pakistanis.

But what of Sperm Whales?
Duodongs, benefactors,
Siberian Tigers, Snow Leopards
and members of the Peerage.
There are barely enough
Mayflower Descendants left
to keep the replica afloat.

Castles crumble in the Lake Country;
diminishing pods of Blue Whales
sing to each other for solace,
ocean beds apart.
The snail darter suffers
in its snail darter way.
While Rattus Rattus
proliferates and half
the population of Mexico
is under fifteen and Catholic.

It is suggested that human protein
processed in the proper way
could bring the population
of right whales back to
self-sufficiency in five years,

Someone must make the decision.

The Last Leper of Saint-Lazare


Times have changed: It's not like the old days
when there were ore lepers than one could count
on the stubs of one's fingers and toes.
Now twenty attendants wait hand and foot
on what's left of you; fresh straw every day,
visits from the penitents and fops-
even the feeble-minded Dauphin
brought you a bowl of white hyacinths
as waxen and transparent as your skin").
No one seems afraid of you. The Dauphin's
jester kicked your water bowl and demanded
to move in. A wit proposed a puzzle:
If you were the last leper left in the world
would you, then, be Leprosy? Sainthood
is mentioned but the Church is suspicious.
You hate the world and pray for a leper friend.
But suppose you are the last? What then?
Time can't heal all wounds. Afternoons blossom
into happy decades with no pestilence
to bring you company. You are alone.
You've no one's sores to look at but your own.

Lorenzo de Tomas



Views of Lisbon


A glass display case at the library today
gave me five views of Lisbon 1572 - 1853 --
and, yes, five more hanging in the mirror-space
between the bullet-proof, green, tinted glass
and the yellowed etchings themselves.
The Tagus river has changed in three centuries
according to typographical conventions,
and its surface (all I could ever see)
altered too -here to my "left above"
undulating in mole-ridge waves,
and there "right below" crested
cockscomb ripplets jostle a
tri-sailed barque, while (all proportion gone)
three men in a tub rock beside it
staring in different directions.
Simultaneously the wily Iberian wind
blows from all directions according
to the smoke, puffed sails, and banners,
Five ideal cities! Complete and perfect!
No unfinished cathedrals, burnt out houses,
no men on scaffolding to build or raze the wall,
Nothing to suggest the time as passed,
and yet somehow Lisbon, you have changed
from version to version -- no doubt
while the artists were off sketching
Toledo, London, Paris, and Granada --
Cities are so vain.

Vine


The assault had been going on
for some years before we moved in.

We were part of some larger migration --
some movement documented by the census bureau
no doubt. It was obvious from the beginning
that the bittersweet vine would some day
topple the regime headed in the front yard
by the squat but stolid catalpa tree
that every late September would distribute
its predictable patronage -- burnt sienna pods,
Phallic, elongated and finally unimportant.
I always raked them into the gutter along with the
Parched leaves and got a kind of kick
out of watching them writhe in spirals
as they burned and burst asunder spewing
their seeds into the smoky air.
So in a sense the catalpa tree was an institution --
god knows who planted it!
An ugly tree, its leaves out of size
and droopy. Even its name is reminiscent
of some obscure but nonetheless unspeakable sin:
Catalpa tree. Definitely an unnatural act!
And so again I've been all along getting a kick
out of watching the bittersweet vine
tighten its stranglehold,
I'm sure nobody planted the vine;
it just grew there at the base of the tree
and persevered.
The vine is a symphony of rhythms:
like the golden horde in eastern Europe
it terrorizes the yard beginning each spring
and then each fall retreats when the going gets rough.
After its urinous leaves fall off the
lurid red berries pock the scene
and slowly shrivel to hard little nuts.
But the stranglehold remains and
then next spring awakens and tightens.
Like all of us, I'm a kind of scientist:
I observe and measure and pretend to be impartial.
Data: in one day, July 29, one tendril
grew three and a half inches,
even now four sprouts have grasped
the mail box beneath the tree
and one has actually slipped its way inside
where my own personal correspondence
awaits my attention.


A July Revolution in Zihuatanejo 1974


Two hurricanes have just passed through;
the reservists need new uniforms.
Two gunboats swing at anchor while
the captain hides the tyro crew.

It's rainy season but not much rain
and no papaya for this morning's brunch.
We transform distant thunder into guns
and wait for newspapers again.

A streamlined orange whirly-bird
usurps the village soccer field;
the officers embark, embrace
and speak so as not to be heard.

Our local, goggled diving boy
brings oysters on a rattan mat;
the twelve-year-old bartender thinks
he ought to act a little coy.

A larger warship passes by
sleek dolphins taunt the gunboat launch.
A dark oppressive cloud occludes
an otherwise pellucid sky.

We spend our days waiting for meals,
inventing lives for unknown guests,
investing hours under the sun
feeding lines from fishing reels.

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