Entries in 3. EP Poetry (2)

Dobby Gibson



Fortune (What It Really Means to be a Weirdo)


The art of fortune telling, once the domain of charismatic shamans and mysterious savants, is now largely a practice of neoconservative Wall Street analysts and half-baked loonies with crystal collections and too many cats. In this way it is not so different from the art of poetry.

Not exactly true in the Far East, where in many places fortune telling remains a discipline as highly respected as medicine. Once illegal in communist China, it has been regaining popularity as state controls relax. There, fortune telling is not done by self-proclaimed “intuitives” who take Visa or MasterCard, but instead by men (mostly) who combine scholarly tools (calendars, charts, maps) with acts of chance, like the throwing of sticks.


The very language of fortune telling is wonderfully poetic: prognostication, sorcery, oracle, soothsayer. This probably isn’t a coincidence, considering that fortune telling is at its heart, storytelling. If you’ve read MacBeth, you know that the Wyrd Sisters, who foretell of MacBeth’s doom, take their name from an Anglo-Saxon antecedent to our own word “weird,” which once meant “fate.”

In name and deed, the Wyrd Sisters remind us that strangeness is our destiny. It could be argued that our ability to perceive “strangeness,” in fact, is first dependent upon an awareness of our fleeting position within the space-time continuum. We imagine the experience of entering another dimension would be bizarre, yet that sensation might be impossible to experience there. Weird!


Tom Ridge, former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security: “There is much we can each do to remain vigilant, to be on watch, to be aware of unusual patterns or vehicles, and to report suspicious activities. And so this afternoon, I ask our citizens for their watchful eyes…”

I don’t know if any of the above theorizing holds up. Confirmation bias is the tendency to interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions, while avoiding information and interpretations that contradict prior beliefs. This is a concept critical to fortune telling.


The first card in any tarot deck is always the Fool.


The poems that follow are savage premonitions of 2001-2007 wyrdness, hastily bound together with a patriotic roll of Tom Ridge duct tape. Read on and “dree your weird,” as the Scots still sometimes say, meaning “suffer your fate.” For you can’t escape strangeness any more than you can time, or silence, or the painful wooden chairs of a poetry reading in an academic auditorium. And so you have been warned. Soon you will reconnect with a long-lost friend. Your lucky numbers are 7, 45, and 23.



Fortune #93

Your luck for today:

The desire to have any is your first mistake.

The second, knowing this, is to hope

to be somehow outside of it all,

and this will set in motion an architecture of great consequence.

Rivers will vanish into rivers.

Sunday will bring half-price bottles of wine, cruets edged with light.

How many times have you walked at night,

sheaves of gloom precluding a neighborhood

singing in its own intense, quotidian silence?

A single dog will bark.

You will get your wish, but it will arrive too late.


Fortune #34

We think we are little gods.

Yet the one thing we fear most is to be left alone.

So we carve one another’s names into the desktops,

drop rocks from the trestle.

We invent and overuse the long vowel.

To be loved, speak with your hands.

To learn how, simply open a magazine

and try to catch the little cards as they flutter to the floor.

Some numbers come with secret powers.

Some secret powers come with no power at all.


Fortune #82

The stylist steams the silk blouse,

dressing her mannequin in silence.

The plot unfolds into mystery.

The couch unfolds into a bed.

You buy gasoline from a man who sits

behind shatterproof glass.

He has a special slot for the twenties.

The priest stops at the cleaners

to retrieve the robes of his Hallelujah chorus.

He swims in lakes, but he makes sure

to never touch the stuff at the bottom.

You wear expensive shoes,

which you sometimes use to kill spiders.

Fortune #17

An iceberg calves and drifts

its first few feet toward destruction.

The motel hallway carpeting just goes on and on.

A cigarette is flicked from a speeding car,

a farmer files his horse’s teeth—

how is it that we can ever fall asleep?

There’s an infinity inside even

the shortest storms of our seen lives.

A Finn ladles water in his sauna.

He’s never met you, and that is why

he has to make himself feel better

by going someplace very small to be warm and alone.


Fortune #4

There’s only one horizon,

yet it can be found in every direction we look.

You’d think it would be easier

to get the hell out of here.

Just ask an iceberg.

In any Chinese restaurant, never order the 42.

Never answer your door, it’s probably another little shit peddling Snickers.

The mannequins remind us of their absent stylist.

This is all hero worship.

This poem ends the same way they all do—

list everyone you’ve ever had sex with here:


Fortune #99

You are the very stranger your mother warned you never to speak to.

And yet here your life’s most rewarding conversation continues.

It comes with old songs you can’t shake,

and directions to the homes your friends haven’t haunted for decades.

Cartography: who needs it?

You’ll know you’re separated from the herd

when you hear the neighborhood chant its ancient requiem.

The whole place is bugged.

You may not be able to recollect how you got here,

but you wake up every morning, don’t you? So wake up.

Fall asleep on the courthouse steps until a nightstick prods you.

Fortune #53

You will find happiness in a lost friend.

You will never find your lost cat.

A single broadcast frequency can hold

1.2 billion conversations simultaneously.

Toothpaste, first invented by the Egyptians,

contained sand and caused immense pain.

Your neighbors know more about you

than does your own mother.

The man across the street

who you think is reading the newspaper isn’t.

You have a bright future in computers.


Fortune #71

The neighbors have spread their evil potluck before you.

Dressed in period garb, they wear sandals with socks.

They subscribe to Life magazine to experience

the present as if it were already the past.

They plant flowering trees engineered to never drop fruit.

Constellations of stickers glow from their bedroom

ceilings as souvenirs from a time when life was lived outdoors.

All conversations end in silence. The trick is to make it purposeful.

It’s not going to get any easier, for these are the Cliffs Notes.


Fortune #32

The surface lot spreads out

its all-u-can-eat buffet of convenient parking.

No nation’s children will inherit more asphalt.

Mattresses sleep in their discount warehouses.

Executives can’t,

knowing they’re running out of places

to underpay teens to serve expensive coffee.

The neighbors are eavesdropping,

if only on the faint hiss of your morning shower.

A man unwraps his morning paper

and hopes for the best.

Truly desperate acts are rarely witnessed,

except by truly desperate men.


Fortune #24

Some love thunder, others bored after the flash,

there’s silence, then silence, then several more tons

of ice fracture from the continental shelf.

Maybe these very thoughts literally are God.

And we’re not so much having them, as God is having us.

I’m the decider, and I decide what’s best.

The department store lights flick out,

and the mannequins vanish onto the dark side of zero.

Thunder. Flash.

Your neighbors have neighbors who distrust their neighbors.



Fortune #2

The rich wife adjusts her marriage’s Super Bowl ring

and rises from the bath, reliving the horror of her own birth.

The rich husband begins another surgery by leaving

his signature incision in the abdomen of an anaesthetized patient.

The police cruiser idles in the alley like a shark in a dying coral reef.

There’s a street beneath this street, a city beneath this city,

inhabited entirely by empty tunnels built for trains that never arrived.

We fold our laundry into shapes that help it remember.

It takes just one blood test to know us.

You have to be careful where you bleed.



Fortune #63

Sometimes, at night, you walk past

the neighbors’ windows, hoping to catch just a glimpse.

Sometimes you climb back into your PJ’s and start the day again.

The stuntman, set ablaze, stumbles across the set.

The splinters of destruction fall from the mannequin’s spine.

A thousand bouquets of gas-station roses

are left to die upon the graves of a thousand veterans.

Don’t step in that puddle.

You never know who that might have been.


Fortune #9

Don’t give up on this just yet. The insomniacs are fighting

over the blankets. They are under the impression

that their religion versus science conflict is new,

a result of their own cleverness, perhaps?

But we’ve suffered far longer atop these sandals,

amid this pilgrimage from inn to unassuming inn,

the sound of last night’s rain still enduring its downspout.

It was this place we stopped

to surrender our affectations.

It was here, gnats clinging to the screen,

that we finally slept.

Sean Thomas Dougherty



Lately I find my poems “opening” more and more, moving into found textures, slippages of real conversation pressed against fragments of language, narrative memory. In “Lullaby” (which I want to spell “bye” because a lullaby has always felt elegiac to my ear) it is these spaces and juxtapositions of narrative fragments that most interest me in their ability to make meanings I would thereby neglect—or better yet, miss if I was more concerned with completeness or a more defined closure.

Collage has always fascinated me and I’ve begun to explore ways of “speaking collages” and this poem is one of these Spoken Collages, though Spoken Assemblages is perhaps better as Assemblage evokes three dimensional space and I think of this poem and my recent work as striving for three dimensions. I think of words Spoken as having three dimensions and this poem is only complete once the reader “reads it” out loud, translating the words into space, body, texture, tone, much as I want it to be heard, if not with my own tongue than with the reader’s tongue..

Of course as I write that I think that is not necessarily true, as reading for me also has a kind of interiority, where “spaces” open inside through language through the eye and inner ear.

And then after I write that I laugh at how hopelessly academic this all sounds.

When actually this poem is a very simple kind of love poem that hopes to be serious and playful and in the end sing my friend Matt who was drunk and protective of his girlfriend one night at our favorite bar, and how hopelessly endearing his actions were, and to my lover Shelly who is a superb modern dancer, and when she moves through space in performance pushes me to find new forms to be able to shape what I feel when I watch her fulfill each gesture to open the air.



Lullaby to my Friends Both Living and Dead  (for Shelly and Matt)


On a day of confetti’d rain:

                                         late spring,

bubblering above the stones.


                                After the 1 AM Vodka Martini

in Scotty’s Jazz Club

                              After a night with no Jazz

and that old guy Mark

                              hitting on Liz to “come


to my studio” and Matt

                                         “lost it” “Why hit an old guy”


I said, glancing          at the huge


bald headed white men at the bar biting


                                bottle caps.


                                “Now That’s competition,”

like the dead,

                     like O’Hara studying Verlaine,

riding shotgun on the subway


D said. Took a shot, her tattooed fist.


And I laughed and thought of us walking down the block.

like what Corey wrote about empty closed down hospitals

or the refinery smoke that snakes through these texts

or the dead fish that wash up along our shore every spring.

And the diners with the men slumped into their own hands.

And far away from any graduate degree or another poem,

riffing Heidegger “though I love that Waldrop book” and Matt

asks “what’s your project” and I turned “to write the choreography

of You—“


the cellophane burning


from the match. To uncouple the shackles to singe


the syntax “infinitive laced” “gerund” “runed” balleted


or ballistic?


Sound as pretentious as “scratch that” scratch

project are “the projects,” as if “Stein had to grow up


              on Government Cheese.”

                                      Until the end the martyrology


emerges no matter how swift the riffed

                                                      is stuttered

in memory of closed fist.

                                            Of stealing

apples in the Londenderry orchards

                                                       miles from the closed down shoe factories.


Buckets of stolen apples and leaving them on Babushkas


front steps.

                     Of beautiful witnessings.


                     Of sleeping and breathing in the dark

                                                               as the streetlights burn,

                     the awake sounds

                                                     of our neighbor Sheila

                     in the apartment above,



putting on her


listening to 50 Cent.



                      But then Dovenshenko (trans. Orlowsky) who wrote “the hanged


                      turned their eyes to the sky

                      from the menacing gallows.”


                      The “menacing gallows” inside


We all carry.


                      Or inside “an oared boat,”


                                 a “willow boat,” a river to row across?


“the dove she is a pretty



                      as you dance (your dead sister


             white shawled)


                      that longing

                                             that falls


between sense (nouns)


                      a door


in the middle of the air




                      to a room

                                            I step