Since former US poet laureate and current Emory professor Natasha Tretheway did such a crackerjack job introducing this poem in yesterday’s New York Times, I think I’m gonna let her handle the duties here today. This poem is one long sentence. -ed.
I first encountered Christopher Gilbert’s poems in his debut volume, published more than 30 years ago. I’ve been waiting for another installment of his particular vision ever since. This poem reads like a love letter to the world — always new to the keen observer. The pacing of the lines enacts the experience of witnessing what seems an ordinary event made extraordinary by the speaker’s attention.
On the Way Back Home
It’s a different world
now that we’ve found a doe dead, against
a late fall background crystalled with frost, steaming
still, in the middle of the two-lane as it goes
where the forest starts going west of the city,
while the feeling is as we hover hushed over her,
everything dark except for the florescent white
flashlight beam sheeming back from the various sleek
facets of her sad and useless beauty, she was
one of us though more like a fallen star
the three of us had wandered to witness,
her otherness a light from her eyes facing up
went no where, was all there on itself
existing as an end in itself, instructive so
we couldn’t follow it but we were compelled —
like refugees awaiting our turns to be
an absence happening, a promising effect —
to turn our gaze onto our absent selves,
to turn our attention into a thing
to inspect, and from this focus point, go out
wandering in our various directions.