Little glass planet, p.1

Little Glass Planet, page 1


Little Glass Planet

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Little Glass Planet

  Note to the Reader on Text Size

  Poem Whispered While Being Blown into Molten Glass, Then Shattered

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  Also by Dobby Gibson



  It Becomes You




  Graywolf Press

  Copyright © 2019 by Dobby Gibson

  The author and Graywolf Press have provided this e-book to you for your personal use only. You may not make this e-book publicly available in any way. Copyright infringement is against the law. If you believe the copy of this e-book you are reading infringes on the author’s copyright, please notify Graywolf Press at:

  This publication is made possible, in part, by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund. Significant support has also been provided by Target, the McKnight Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, the Amazon Literary Partnership, and other generous contributions from foundations, corporations, and individuals. To these organizations and individuals we offer our heartfelt thanks.

  Published by Graywolf Press

  250 Third Avenue North, Suite 600

  Minneapolis, Minnesota 55401

  All rights reserved.

  Published in the United States of America

  ISBN 978-1-55597-842-6

  Ebook ISBN 978-1-55597-889-1

  2 4 6 8 9 7 5 3 1

  First Graywolf Printing, 2019

  Library of Congress Control Number: 2018958150

  Cover design: Jeenee Lee Design

  Cover art: Yuji Agematsu. Zip: 01.01.14 … 12.31.14 (details). Mixed media in cigarette pack cellophane wrappers (365 units). On wood-backed acrylic shelves, latex paint (12 units). Wrappers, each approx.: 2½ x 2⅛ x 1 inches (6.3 x 5.3 x 2.5 cm). Courtesy of the artist, Yale Union, Portland, and Miguel Abreu Gallery, New York. Photo: Aaron Flint Jamison and Scott Ponik.


  Dear Reader

  Prayer for November

  Elegy for Abe Vigoda


  L’Avenir Est Quelque Chose


  Fire Drill

  To Be Transmitted by Fax

  Poem for an Antique Korean Fishing Bobber

  What the Cold Wants

  Roll Call


  I Can Do It All in My Lifetime

  Ode to the Future

  • • •

  Fickle Sun, Loyal Shadow

  • • •

  Inside the Compulsion to Wonder Lurks the Will to Survive

  Everything I’ve Learned So Far

  Selected Poems

  Why I Don’t Have Any Tattoos

  The Impossibility of Sending You a Postcard from Mumbai


  Bed in Winter


  Now Where Were We?

  Fall In

  April Light

  • • •



  Dear Reader

  Though we’ve done this many times before

  it doesn’t make it any less miraculous

  that a fugitive intimacy can sequester itself

  in the nearly invisible here

  dissolving an entire alphabet into thoughts

  strung from more distant thoughts like stars

  inside a strange machine

  that counts on you to propel it

  with a joule of your mind’s breath

  pushing young ships into the harbor

  where they ferry the very idea

  that music needs no mediation

  tacking this way and then that

  as if each to earn the name

  we moments ago christened them with


  new fleets drifting off as older ones threaten return

  across soft borders some smuggling some gone

  long enough to reappear as unrecognizable

  as paint swatches read differently in the sun

  another among the infinite things that blue-green

  never names but still colors wildly

  in the spell that watches over you as you lie awake

  a little longer wondering what happens to the hours

  Prayer for November

  Brazen angels, stubborn saboteurs

  send us a sign.

  Silent priests of the coat check,

  cherubs of every appetite, all the powers of ten,

  if we can believe in you, we can believe again.

  Assure us we’ll be spared. Tell us it’s been you

  ghostwriting our astonishing memoirs all along.

  Loyal docents, restless spirits of lost chess-masters,

  dogs with one eye, lead us home.

  Spray-paint the orange X on our doors

  and place the warm coin into our hands.

  Promise it won’t end in any of the ways

  we think it will. Pile snow onto the capitol

  and fossilize the partisans. Stuff sawdust

  into the senators’ crooked mouths

  and announce the lies have all been told.

  Spoon the cure onto every cracked tongue—

  then kiss the food right down our throats.

  Afternoon breeze of one syllable,

  arsonists with no matches, stab wounds

  healing into smiles, taxis at midnight, shine on.

  Shine your penlights into the backs of our eyes

  and swear you see no blindness.

  Whisper the forgotten melody into our ears.

  Show the skywriters how to spell

  without looking back, we’ve been fools,

  we’ve wasted more than we’ve saved,

  we can be loved after all.

  Elegy for Abe Vigoda

  The most horrible person

  has been elected president.

  The hardest thing to fathom

  is the present. Familiar sounds arrive

  at my door from the school down the street.

  The kid with the freshest haircut

  holds a rubber football while hosting

  a Chautauqua on defensive pass interference.

  Seven students stand at the back

  of the orchestra, stoned with percussion.

  For the thirty-third time in her life

  a science teacher announces the oldest

  layer of rock is called Precambrian.

  They’ve trained us to believe anything.

  So is the rumor true? Yes, Abe Vigoda has died.

  That name, like something resurrected

  from a dictionary. Abe: another word

  for honesty. And vigoda, meaning:

  a sacred temple for vampires.

  About the past I never feel the same way twice.

  When I was sick and my father somewhere

  across the planet, a Trinitron television

  wheeled into my bedroom dispensed the medicine

  of Abe Vigoda by slow drip.

  I could hear the ice thunder

  as it calved in the pond across the street.

  Like a superhero with the powers

  of an exhausted mime, Abe Vigoda cured

  my fear of g
hosts while teaching me

  how to wear the suit of adulthood

  the right amount reluctantly,

  and holster my revolver behind

  my back where I can never reach it.

  My father is again far from me,

  visiting the clinic where they treat

  idiopathic positional vertigo

  by reorienting the crystals of the inner ear,

  which once helped him toss

  exceptional spirals timed perfectly

  so that as I caught or not

  the football I crashed into arbor vitae

  that was the closest thing I had

  to a brother pummeling wisdom into me.

  The past is surprisingly punctual.

  All of time is with us here,

  each next moment waiting right where we left it

  when we last felt safe inside our heads

  wondering what kind of leathery faces

  they might grow into as we held

  the flashlight beneath our chins

  to say the one funny thing we needed to

  while leaning into the dark.


  The best thing about riding a horse

  is the better shadow you make. The best part

  of the better shadow is knowing only half

  of what it’s thinking. Even doing nothing is a form

  of moving on. Through the white pines

  the horses walk single file, in a sentence, each rider

  another noun aspiring to the verb to be.

  The forest has no replica. Its beasts disprove everything.

  At dusk, your worries are a sack of rabbits

  you have to carry down to the river

  and press slowly beneath the surface

  until you feel it go still. In the morning,

  when you wake, you’ll think you stitched

  the valley back together by opening your eyes.

  L’Avenir Est Quelque Chose

  All day for too long

  everything I’ve thought to say

  has been about umbrellas.

  It’s hard to remember how

  I came to possess whichever one

  I find in my hand, or hanging there now

  upside-down in the closet like sleeping bats,

  each one too tiny or huge,

  like our own ideas, always needing

  to be shaken off and folded up

  before we can properly forget them on the train.

  Most of my predictions are honestly

  just hopes: a sudden sundress in March,

  regime change in the North,

  or the one where Amanda

  wins the big book award from the baby boomers.

  There’s that green-and-white umbrella

  the cereal-company interns handed us

  outside the doomed ball game,

  the one for sun,

  the one with a wooden handle

  as crooked as the future

  we reach for whenever one of us

  needs a stand-in for a dance partner.

  You once opened it in the living room

  so Scarlett could have a picnic

  beneath what felt to her like a tent,

  as it felt to me like my prediction

  we would live forever was already true.

  When trying to understand I tend to look up

  and occasionally spot nothing

  more than a thousand pinholes in black nylon,

  it’s enough to get you to Greece and back,

  or something to kiss beneath,

  who knows how this is going to play out?

  I know you won’t ever be able to say

  exactly what you’re feeling either.

  The way thoughts pop open overhead

  as we pull closer to what’s between us,

  the rain playing the drum

  that’s suddenly us.


  Isn’t this the life

  Weren’t the white feathers

  feathering the young

  Shouldn’t the invention solve the disease

  Didn’t the guilt end with the getaway

  Aren’t you the clever one

  For the splash of silver sense

  For the fountainry of phonemes

  For a grownup desk job

  And without winter

  Without any equinox or ration

  In the cast that hasn’t dried

  In the sutures of our own skin

  Weren’t the Lilliputians sweet

  Everybody crossing their eyes sees the figure eight

  Everyone’s a satellite

  Everyone becomes that star

  Everybody dance everybody get out

  Will the mouse outrun the hawk

  Will the impulse to resist bring a will to surrender

  Will the owner of a green Subaru Outback

  please report to the Fan Information Booth

  on Concourse C

  Did we ever doubt our devices

  Did we punch the right holes in the earth

  Did the queen smash her bottle across

  the hull did the little ones toe the line

  Was 16 the correct number

  Was the whispering coming from inside the hut

  Was the instant they stopped running

  the moment the verdict was returned

  Was the balcony high enough for a view

  Aren’t you glad you’re more headlight than deer

  Aren’t the birds quiet before they strike

  Isn’t the view marvelous

  Isn’t the hum like hearing a needle sew

  Isn’t the technology immaculate

  Shouldn’t this much be obvious

  Shouldn’t we praise the distance

  Shouldn’t the crater be great enough

  to bury the dead

  Didn’t we greet each other with our eyes

  Don’t our values begin with logic

  Doesn’t a clock cookie time

  Up from the higher laws

  Up until the chorus

  Up in the sky it’s a bird it’s an eagle

  Aren’t we safer behind our keyboards

  Aren’t you sweet

  Isn’t this grand isn’t this just like them

  Don’t you wish you knew what they were thinking

  Don’t you dare draw the gods

  Wouldn’t we be fools to fail to admire the screen

  Wouldn’t the fighting be bloodier without us

  Were your coordinates correct

  As long as your life lives

  As long as you’re asking

  As if lightning struck down

  As if distance could be clean

  For now the fog lowers into the bay

  For now the young engineers get tattoos

  For now let them think it’s brave

  Now take one small step to your right

  Now and that’s an order

  Now the winds hush

  and you gust upon this earth

  Fire Drill

  I hope you have a month

  to read the first fifteen chapters

  of your own autobiography

  they’re about an atom.

  Some say the sun

  meant more then.

  Today a few more trees are scheduled

  to release their fall collections.

  I don’t have a swatch

  for their nesting instinct.

  I don’t have the right crayon

  for insomnia.

  When I say you are this morning’s incumbent

  I mean accomplice.

  When I swipe down with my thumb

  to refresh the present

  the Next Now arrives in the nick of time.

  Next Now, heal us with opportunity.

  Next Later, assure us our preferences have been saved.

  What if I really am a suspension bridge

  and by standing here
r />   I make my most profound gesture

  toward the world?

  What if the sun were on a game show—

  could anyone stop it?

  I shouldn’t talk this way.

  Twinkle twinkle everyone outside.

  You wanted a revolution,

  you’re getting an operating system update.

  The past tense of to be is was.

  You can check was off your bucket list.

  To Be Transmitted by Fax

  Like a movie that begins

  in an isolated polar research facility,

  R.J. MacReady asking the crew

  tough questions about

  the odd Malamute that’s wandered in

  off the tundra—when suddenly

  the generator blows—

  I like it when the lights go out.

  I like shopping for groceries

  with a storm on the way

  making choices I’ll question for days,

  everyone’s in a rush

  and the coffee’s about to run out.

  I like imagining you

  grocery shopping in the rain

  in a mid-sized coastal town

  where I don’t know the names

  of the regional chains

  or the shortcut through the park

  where the kids play a game

  for hours before realizing

  no one’s keeping score.

  In the corner drugstore

  there’s a yellowing machine

  that appears to have heard

  it all before, no urgent news

  coming in over the transom.

  But from the other side of the hills

  there’s the sound of chopper blades

  and a flickering searchlight.

  When you press

  the machine’s green button

  you can hear the song

  of a line left open.

  Poem for an Antique Korean Fishing Bobber

  Little glass planet,

  I like picking you up.

  As if I’m holding my own thought,

  one blown molten with a puff

  of some craftsman’s breath—is it still inside you?

  You are a beautiful bauble it’s hard to imagine

  anyone hurling you into the sea,

  but eventually we all have a job to do.

  I think of the early mornings and storm warnings

  you braved to find the village dinner.

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