Jules Gibbs

Abosorption (Other)

The tree was not exactly weeping, but it was purging
something from deep inside, a pang that seeped
a sappy sickness thick with the fibrous bilge
of pre-history, its leaves like downward daggers, tangs
of urge mad at the whole earth but sympathetic
with the universe, marching to a dirge
of a thousand tiny wet feet tapping. Tap-tap
the branches descended, came down to the doors,
pawed at the windows. I was just saying anyone who dedicates
a book to that woman is on my shit list, yadda-yadda,
my usual troubled themes — a house full
of thieves and my disadvantaged youth nibbling
at my ankles, my bad knee, but you were swooning
out the window or at the fly tapping the screen,
remembering someone — I don’t know who, but I know
longing when I see it. The branches of the walnut descended
another inch with a grunt, then two more, hovered and honed
in, looked —yes the leaves began peering in the windows,
eyes like jade prongs, armed and operatic, tricky
as neutrinos. We both felt arrested by the hue
it cast into the room and by something else, too,
something courageous and inside and completely made-up.
Affairs are contagious, I said, and you looked sad
and I remembered the two young poets who sat on our
two red couches and wouldn’t look at the TV because
it polluted their memes. They jawed, opined. Tapped
their wooden heels on the wooden floor—dactyls
and spondees and I would have call them kibitzers
except Yiddish flew over their heads like a soul
afflicted, like an ill tree, like the rain. Their memes
were pure as Nazis. They wanted to chant and be taken
seriously. Seriously? Their pre-Christian arrogance could not
be exorcised — more talented exorcists had already tried.
I wanted less T.S. Eliot and more insight into March
Madness, less papyrus and more reckless shmaltz of American
Idol. (The worse they sang, the harder I cried.) They leaned
in to hear my thoughts on syllabic collision in German
translation, and took them without permission. I made
an empty threat. I wanted to return to the good old
badness of the off-key, the burn of surprise, regret of poor
pedigree in analog transmission. I wanted baldness.
Outside art by outsider artists. I had an idea about
three colors. I told it to you and you took it. The tree
was all around us, sallow, ruddy, olive, an intellect
without character. Overeducated, but not in the ways
of love. In need of good parenting. Sorry for its own
nature, but being what it had to be anyway, getting more
intimate with its illness, knocking at the door — Tap-tap
and I did what was in my nature to do, ward of the earth
and private man that I am, I opened the door to the tremor
at the threshold, recognized it for its high IQ, its shiver
and cold sweat, saw it for its threat and its canard
and invited it inward.

Jules Gibbs
“Absorption (Other)” first appeared in Gulf Coast, Winter/Spring 2011 Vol. 23, Issue 1.