RJ Gibson, “Poem With Bodies In It”
Author: Poetry Editor
October 28, 2010
This week’s poem by RJ Gibson is sure to give you the shivers.
POEM WITH BODIES IN IT
Knocked and flawed as stones or fruit,
we raise our faces, check our shaves
and do what we would do.
Easy to believe we want someone
to look at us, to choose,
then take us in hand— except:
what do we do that’s worth reviewing.
Best to love the dead, so still and fixed. To love the vegetable,
to prep the dirt to make the bed:
spade into soil, then heft and dump.
There’s an I love you in this:
in funerals, gardening, self-regard: there has to be
in order to tend to anything.
Most times it’s easy
to confuse attention with affection, even if you don’t
have to squint to overlook those fine lines.
I used to fall in love on a semi-daily basis:
kissed total strangers
at parties and in bars until
all that stopped being a good idea, even on weekends.
Maybe it’s getting older, not wanting
to be more interesting
to other people than to myself.
Or maybe I grew afraid when I found out
a former neighbor brought a guy home, choked him
to death in the middle of sex. He hid three days.
Three days he kept this dead trick
in his bedroom,
He finally dragged the body down the street,
dumped it beneath a bridge.
After his arrest, I joked about it,
sang snippets of “Killer Queen.”
I stopped all that soon as I saw my former neighbor, shackled
in an orange jumpsuit, in a courtroom
on the local action news.
He looked just like he did
when he came to borrow something
or share some E or weed.
That ‘s what made it awful—that lack of change.
He lifted up his face,
he met the judge’s eyes.
He was still handsome.
RJ GIBSON was a 2008 Lambda Literary Retreat Fellow in Poetry. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Knockout, BLOOM, and Court Green. His chapbook Scavenge was a co-winner of the 2009 Robin Becker Prize. He lives and works in West Virginia.