Think of the long trip home—Elizabeth Bishop
I came a long way to get to Harlem,
From grandma’s chuck of Indian corn, born
Of the sugar ditch, the pitch at midnight
Alligators and panthers with eyes of the soul.
Was told of the many that died from arthritis and
Diabetes, the dialysis of peonage, born of migrant
Hands, aluminum pans of buffalo nickels, preserves
In mason jars, tar baby feet, far away from the city
Far away from pity.
Was told of flamingo pink and bubble gum blue,
a crew of red ants, a whole congregation of gnats lives
underground but found its way to my imagination.
Not landscape, but escape to the floating cemetery
living below sea level, afraid of sin and the devil, there
is still moonshine and gin, still the honky-tonk and pine
cones with nothingness but heat.
The military district of my dead grandfather, the river
Bethesda, Perry, Georgia and Hogs Hammock where
Mother was a laundress and a peanut farmer.
She took her time to slaughter a hog. It was a killing
Swine and the whine of all things Southern in the moss.
Home is being raised from the tenement of the soil,
From liniment and castor oil, aloe and dipping snuff.
Home is the coil of two hands praying over me.
Robert Gibbons has received fellowships and scholarships from the Norman Mailer Center, Cave Canem among others. His first collection of poems, CLOSE TO THE TREE, was published by THREE ROOMS PRESS, New York. He’s a graduate candidate of the MFA program at CUNY where he also teaches undergraduate poetry.