Introduction by Betsy Sholl; MAJ Poetry Editor
Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is Poet Laureate of Portland. He is acting director of SPACE Gallery and was for several years director of The Telling Room. His first book of poems is Death of a Ventriloquist, winner of the Vassar Miller Prize. “Wing and a Prayer” was first published in Slice Magazine. All three of these poems are about looking, about looking long and hard, looking in such a way that we experience a little self-forgetfulness, and thus can see the world and each other in new ways, and in the process be surprised by wonder, despite all the darkness around us, which of course we also have to see.
A Preponderance of Evidence
Hope is believing in spite of the evidence, and then watching the evidence change. ― Jim Wallis
My country ‘tis of thee
and your habeas corpus: we have the body
of a parolee who knows he’ll sin again.
Fill all hundred trillion
synapses, overload the circuits
and trip the charge to all the outlets.
A prosecution of hammers and clips.
A jury of intercontinental urns.
You’ve seen an infant’s eye,
yes? Felt tiny fingers curl
around your long uninnocent index?
And the hue of that eye matters less
if darker? And the hair? And the skin
of a plump bundle heavy in your arms?
A crapulence of spatter.
A conviction of condolences.
Sit at an actual table with plates
of fingerprinted latkes, fufu, cous-cous,
squid; this table can’t happen
in your head. Wooden and long,
a rash of speckled crumbs—the place
we make a gentler evidence, a new kind.
Wing and a Prayer
Hook me up to a current I felt
once: birdsong so quiet it seemed
an echo of birdsong
or a creek made of air
the same temperature as a body—
a silent humming I walked through.
I’m supposed to let whatever
what is is be what I want
but I still want, I want, I want
my brother’s cells to stop their war
on each other. I want a poet
I missed too much when here.
I want the body of a woman
down the block to come back
so she can see her kids grow up
and they are seen. I know deep
in my shallow root system
all of this is so far beyond
my small tangle of electric streets
where one raindrop pushed to one side
of one honey locust leaf can mean
somewhere someone dies of thirst
and somewhere else thunder becomes
a god again. I always want rest,
oh you godless godhead, positron,
annihilation, ether or stream—
bottomless, unnameable—but I will
sit here as long as it takes and watch
for any drip, flutter, or tick
that could be your approving nod.
After Duncan Hewitt
A single fork tine’s particular curve,
dent in the old metal fire grate,
bicycle tube, limp on a nail,
or little ramp at the end of her nose:
look long enough for the electrons’
course change; for cattails to be flags
of a marsh nation you enter if
you stop and take in its dank musk.
Look long enough for your son’s eyes
to green then become a black
planet with a brown ring inside
a hue you never name. Look
long enough for a blade’s letter
on thick pond ice to melt at your touch,
lost path to bliss. Look long enough
for your brother to know whenever
if ever he goes you go any
distance any stretch of road
or trip across a dark river
he carries you you carry him.
Look long enough for sight to become
work then keep that shovel as piston
as a load bearing arm until liquid
salt breaks over you like laughter’s
pure verb of lungs and blood and rhythm
not one of us can explain but damn
it’s easy. We can look long enough
for all infinitesimal tremors
in all our small cell walls to beatbox
together a one two a one two.