Andrea Gibson- Elbows
Last week for the Offering of Talents I recited a poem from Andrea Gibson’s HEY GALAXY poetry album, which can be found on spotify and other streaming apps. This week I wanted to leave the same poem with you in writing, because there’s so much in this poem I had missed until I read it as well as heard it. I hope you enjoy this piece as much as I do!
I get panic attacks when I’m being looked at.
I get hungry in crowds.
I eat potato chips to crunch away noise
The noise is not noise if I’m the one in control of the loud.
I’m all of 3 years old- You can’t see me if I close my eyes.
You have no idea where I am.
I guarantee I am somewhere thinking about the people who choose the middle seat on an airplane
When our elbows touch my heart goes so fast. I dare myself to not pull away. It’s the point of life;
Don’t let anyone tell you different.
The point of life is increasing the amount of time you can get your elbow to stay.
My joy likes to run from my body as quick as it can.
I’ve been practicing holding it, like you might practice holding your breath at a public pool-
I can do about a half a lap before my panic freaks out with its little red whistle.
My panic is not a lifeguard, but you can’t tell my panic that-
My panic googled “How to give CPR to yourself.”
Despite how it might look, I was raised right.
My father is a good man. When I asked him why he stayed 3 years in Vietnam, he told me the army offered him a free trip to France if he stayed the extra year.
When he left the room my mother said, “No, Andrea,
That is not true. Your father stayed the extra year so that his brother wouldn’t have to go.”
When I came out to my parents, they took me to a psychiatrist - “To get my head fixed.”
The psychiatrist said I am not responsible for my family’s happiness
But my father’s brother was a happy man.
It was a lot to lose.
I’ve never nightmared so much as I did in those years
I was at a Catholic school playing basketball for the Lady Monks.
I was taking Environmental Science from a nun who did not believe in dinosaurs.
What I knew about extinction is that my family stopped calling
I started working demolition and volunteered to run the jackhammer
Through the asbestos tiles on the building’s floor
When I finally got my degree the only job I could find was as a telemarketer selling a product called Score!
It was a cologne guaranteed to get any man laid in a club.
What I’m saying is there are times when your life is not on the upswing. And no one was saying it was gonna get better.
When they said “straighten up,” they meant straighten up,
But some of us can’t help but jackknife out of the net.
Some of us know that love is not the only closet we were told never to come out of
There is also the closet of grief,
The closet of sorrow,
The closet of panic,
The closet of awe
Every honest grit that we feel this world asks for a stencil instead,
For the chatter of cordial, manufactured machine,
And yet here we are,
Daring our elbows,
Out noising the noise,
Forgiving the past for not always being the past,
And making no excuses for wanting to feel too much.
There is no tragedy that doesn’t knock the wind out of us
We follow that wind where it goes, running with our windchimes dragging behind us like we were just married
To knowing the break down is what trampolines the bouncing back
So call my ring finger whatever I use to flip off the rules of how my feelings are supposed to, supposed to, supposed to act.
I am always a groom with a heavy, heavy heart
Just learning to pull my own weight without wishing my past weighed less than it does.
I’m learning “Brave” is a hand-me-down suit from “Terrified as hell.”
Dress me in whatever will get me through the door of my heart
Get my faith in us under your skin
Hold my stubborn in the palm of your free.
Tell whomever is sitting beside you tonight,
“Thank god you never got braces. Your bite looks like a city skyline. I’ll bet you leave that kind of mark on this world.”