Saturday, June 07, 2008

Reginald Gibbons

Make Me Hear You
by Reginald Gibbons

When my Aunt Lera — tiny now,
slow moving and slow talking —
wanted to tell me about
her life, she began by saying,
"Curtis and me had just one . . .
year . . . together." Curdiss
(the way she says it) was
a genial great man by all
remembrances of him, and the two
of them, just married, would go
fishing in the evening from
the banks of the Pearl,
the green stream in Mt. Olive,
Mississippi. A year of that —
quiet aloneness together
after supper, things each showed
the other, the bed turned down —
and then Curtis's father
came to live with them
in their tiny house and while
Curtis was away at work
in the mill the old man would
find his way out to the yard
and have fits, twirling around,
falling, so she'd have to
pick him up and carry him
back inside, and that was
how they lived till
Curtis died, and then his father.
The pain that Lera wouldn't
cry of now is like what I'm
now the cause of: the things
gone in time that you and I
held only as sweet memories
of towns, walks, rivers,
beds, kingdoms, I took away
a second time when I killed
your hopes — and mine,
and mine — for more sweet days
to come, and I left that
best time locked in the past.
Dead Curdiss is Lera's
old ghost who's flown with her
into every day, the lost chance
to live alone with him as he was
and could have been, and you're
the ghost who'll fly alongside
me into the ruins and rooms
I decided we would never
share again — hovering up just
when you see the thing you want
to show me, and unable to
make me hear you, unable to hear
me say back to you, Oh, love, I would
never have seen that without you.

Copyright © Reginald Gibbons

This poem was published in the Fall 1983 issue of Ploughshares. It was also included in the Morrow Anthology of Younger American Poets, 1985 (page 215).

It occurs to me now that this poem is exactly the kind of thing I'd like to see more of in poetry. I'm guessing the poet is revealing something of himself in this poem but if he isn't it doesn't take away from the authenticity of the experience I have as a reader of the poem. The people in the poem suffer in understandable ways, and I feel compassion for them even though I myself have not experienced what they have gone through/are going through. The poem features memories of loving relationships, and the speaker of the poem is inflicting pain on him/her self by regretting the decision to end a relationship. I like the emotional honesty though, and I like the suggestion here that relationships don't end they just take on another form. Mr. Gibbons teaches at Northwestern University, and you can see more of him at his Northwestern website.

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