Elisa Gabbert


Psalm Remix
         After George Oppen

The lovers in bed are not like wild deer
though the bed is like a little clearing
they suddenly find themselves visible in.

Turns out, his eyes are black & sparkly
and circling him she sees her own in his
and so on: a black-bright infinite corridor

they bump heads trying to get into—
Gah! he can’t drive his whole self thru
the end of her, it seems, not unpainfully.

And he can’t speak, or doesn’t want to,
but she wants him to, b/c she can’t & is afraid
that she was wrong about what they’re like

when the vector of light of a sunbeam
sabers them both to the ground
by their hearts?! Oh, we are hopeless.

The Human Charm

Maximum! Your lucky charm here, hang on
to me & you won’t be afraid: of the train:
because it never came. Ziggurat, ha!
Forget your deaths, your past & future
tenses I am maximum now! Of the snow:
what snow?: it never buried you a pinprick
at a time. Oh did it—in the ruins well
no one here is weird & alone. Of a bird:
because I’m not afraid of birds but if I were:
I’d hold a bird inside my mouth for you:
I’m proof, I’m lucky you! Good luck
with me. Hold me, flip me over. Find out
if you care what’s behind me.

Poem With Apology

We’ve completely exhausted the terminology
of breaking up. Now’s the time to reflect
on what we’ve done, to set up lawn chairs

and stare at the empty field. I feel like
I just drove a crash course and knocked down
every pylon. I could see them flying out

from under the car in my rearview mirror
like giant candy corn. My punishment
is to put them all in place again.

You watch from the curb with a face
I will never forget: skeptical child,
one part hoping the magician

won’t disappoint him. I’m sorry:
nothing I can do with these absurd cones
will seem funny or poignant.

On the Bridge

I was crossing the Harvard bridge, sun low and beaming,
when I remembered my dream—not the plot,
but a still frame from it: standing on a kind of plank
about two stories up, with the explosion behind me,
blooming out white and expansive like a nuclear rose.
I know I have to jump to the concrete below
but I hesitate, imagining the sound of my knees breaking,
though the scorching air shoves at my back.

I stopped halfway across the bridge, and wondered
what I’m dreading. One end of a long, slender ribbon
from an audio tape someone had torn apart
was caught on the railing. It waved out shimmering
over the river, like a streamer thrown off the deck
of a departing ship, trying to kiss the shore goodbye.

You Catch Me

with my nose in the sugar bowl—
I was suddenly aware
of this hole in my experience:

Does sugar have a smell?
I can tell you now, it does not.
This makes me sad,

ruins my whole breakfast.
You don’t understand;
you wouldn’t bother

sniffing the odorless air.
You will never know
how much you miss me.



Elisa Gabbert holds degrees from Rice University and Emerson College. She is a reader for Ploughshares and an editor of Absent. Recent work appears or will appear in journals including Pleiades, LIT, No Tell Motel, Kulture Vulture, RealPoetik, H_NGM_N, and Redivider, as well as the forthcoming anthologies The Bedside Guide to No Tell Motel – Second Floor and Outside Voices 2008 Anthology of Younger Poets. Her collaborations with Kathleen Rooney can be found in MiPOesias, Foursquare, Cake Train, Past Simple, Elimae, Dusie and other journals. A chapbook, Thanks for Sending the Engine, is available from Kitchen Press.