Dobby Gibson

Gone Before

Sadness, though your beard may be fake,

your anonymity is quite real,

whispered the dying man to his nurse,

raising his arms for his last sponge bath.

Early renderings had no vanishing point.

Painters dream in oil.

Dreams, like canaries,

are sent down into our mineshafts

to discover how long we might survive;

the dreamers, like secretaries,

are sent home in sneakers,

carrying their pumps.

Sadness, you are so Japanese: snow

on just one side of the leaf

that has not yet dropped.

Snow of all snow

and of every lost chance,

last insects walking in fear across glass,

zeppelin beacons pulsing through the fog.

Snow as illegible as the cardboard

held by the man who can’t spell

how hungry he is,

kneeling frozen at the fountain

to sail a small boat

folded from his last dollar.

Seen from deep orbit,

cities wink white with loneliness.

A mother pulls her daughter by her arm.

A little girl pulls her doll by its hair.

Inside the space capsule after splashdown:

no one. And not even a note.

The hospitals they have built

just for people like us to die in

are built entirely of corridors,

which they keep empty,

except for a grinding light.

Outside, the snow falls without making a sound.

And still the dogs scatter.



“Gone Before” was published in Polar, (Alice James Books, 2005).