Poems by Cathy Gibbons

Demanding the Flower

Who devised these seasons of knowing
so messy, muddy, untamed?
I don’t want to wait anymore –

Make ME bloom.

I’m tired of root digging,
tapped out of patience.
I could carry this further
to pruning, planting, growing,
storms, rodents, bugs,
but all I want is the BLOOM.

What I want is a superhero
comic book Muse who will
Swoop me away in big finned cars,
give me jewelry and fuss,
put yellow in my hands so bold
the daffodils will know we’re related.

No, don’t get me off track.

MAKE ME BLOOM.
lay me out in beds of blue,
give me green fire eyes,
tap my veins, turn my hair red.

I know art is in the patience,
in the working, in the prayer,
but today I want to be combustible,
consumed by blooming,
convulsed in yellow.

As featured in The Comstock Review, Vol. 11, No.1


Sleeper

She says to her young son
crossing the grocery lot’s
hot asphalt on a gleaming
July afternoon, “Grab
a wing, chicken –
That’s what my father
used to say to me.”

I imagine a farmer
in Upstate New York
seated at a picnic table
about to dig in, American
dreams sleeping sound
in stalks of corn.

Memories of old colonels
blow through the motor
hum of John Deere tanks,
the war ending, again
he lies safe in his wife’s embrace,
the only things slaughtered
chickens and other men’s
beanpole grandsons.

Comstock Review, Vol. 11, No.1


Diagnosis

One day everything changes
I’ve read this before but now
it happened in my house
hold
and I respond slowly
as if waking hard
on a pale and chilled
October morning
when we first notice
fire in the maples
and
shadow geese
flying near,
going
on
The Comstock Review, (Vol. 15, No.2)


Mid-Voyage
(on the way to the New World)

Last night’s wine was sour,
steeps as vinegar in my hollow
stomach. The sea lurches.

Gritty remains of old grapes
stick to the barrel slats.
I reach my arm down inside
straining at the shoulder socket.
My fingers troll for skins.
The scraping brings me home,
Andalusia, the smell of my father’s sweat.
Will there be grapes, olive trees
where I’m landing next?

Hunger maps my trail.
My teeth ache for a piece of bread.
All that’s left, everything, salted.

The Father tells us to remember
Jesus was thirsty. I kiss
the feet of the alabaster Saviour,
shield my eyes from the golden
cross. The sea is blue as Mary’s
dress. I lick my purple fingers.

Still no birds on the far horizon.
Today I would turn back.

From “The Americas cycle,” set in the
early days of colonial Mexico


Engraving

I know she had long black hair.
maybe at night in the heavy hours
she held me in her arms, covered
me with her hair, soft blanket,
pressing me as if I could go back inside.

I don’t remember her face anymore.
I should have carved it in bone
those first months of leaving
the way the sailors did on deck
night after night, calm wave
after calm wave, between storms,
remembering wives and daughters,
shape of cheeks, tilt of noses,
how their hair was piled and parted.

I still have the gold coin I never
showed her, the etched face
worn smooth after so many years
hidden in my pocket.
My hand tightens round it.

When I uncurl my fist
I want to see my mother’s face
engraved, perfect in every detail,
radiant on my palm.

From “The Americas cycle


Asylum: An Elegy

In Mexico City’s school of
Filosofia y Letras, we gathered,
hushed, in the cold and
darkened concrete auditorium.
Half a continent away
military boots trampled Chile
as the assassinated president’s
new widow, pale and shocked,
stood exiled with her children before us.
Octavio Paz led us in mourning
her husband, their father, Salvador Allende.

Poets and lawyers, engineers and teachers,
doctors, students, labor leaders, mothers,
Mexicans and Chileans, Europeans, Africans,
even a few sickened Americans
rose and applauded her,
opening floodgates that spilled
from our Mexican highland to
the blood bathed ocean of Neruda’s
butchered home country.
We gave the solidarity
of our anonymous love
grasping hands to receive
the blows of grief’s striking fist.

We did not know yet Pinochet’s tortures.
Young and old, maimed and murdered,
herded and stacked in stadium passageways,
rats stuffed whole in women’s vaginas.

Artist, listen. Artista, escuche.
They are not silenced if we remember.
Truth demands memorials.
It will happen again.

Give us the refuge of your clear voice.

From “The Mexico Poems


After Effects

The meal is over
but the green chile’s bite
slowly, incrementally
magnifies contours
inside my mouth.

My tongue reverberates.
Armies of spikes
squeeze out saliva
as if rain could wash away
this seasoned sting.

From “The Mexico Poems