RJ Gibson, “Poem With Bodies In It”

This week’s poem by RJ Gibson is sure to give you the shivers.



Knocked and flawed as stones or fruit,
______we raise our faces, check our shaves
____________and do what we would do.

Easy to believe we want someone
______to look at us, to choose,
____________then take us in hand— except:

what do we do that’s worth reviewing.
______Best to love the dead, so still and fixed. To love the vegetable,
____________to prep the dirt to make the bed:

spade into soil, then heft and dump.
______There’s an I love you in this:
____________in funerals, gardening, self-regard: there has to be

a tenderness
______in order to tend to anything.
____________Most times it’s easy

to confuse attention with affection, even if you don’t
______have to squint to overlook those fine lines.
____________I used to fall in love on a semi-daily basis:

kissed total strangers
______at parties and in bars until
____________all that stopped being a good idea, even on weekends.

Maybe it’s getting older, not wanting
______to be more interesting
____________to other people than to myself.

Or maybe I grew afraid when I found out
______a former neighbor brought a guy home, choked him
____________to death in the middle of sex. He hid three days.

Three days he kept this dead trick
______in his bedroom,
____________in July.

He finally dragged the body down the street,
______dumped it beneath a bridge.
____________After his arrest, I joked about it,

sang snippets of “Killer Queen.”
______I stopped all that soon as I saw my former neighbor, shackled
____________in an orange jumpsuit, in a courtroom

on the local action news.
______He looked just like he did
____________when he came to borrow something

or share some E or weed.
______That ‘s what made it awful—that lack of change.
____________He lifted up his face,

he met the judge’s eyes.
______He was still handsome.


RJ GIBSON was a 2008 Lambda Literary Retreat Fellow in Poetry. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Knockout, BLOOM, and Court Green. His chapbook Scavenge was a co-winner of the 2009 Robin Becker Prize. He lives and works in West Virginia.