From on going project
Every morning greeting
Even missing you is beautiful
Washing on sky
I wasn’t, by any means a natural.
Was not one of those wow-hounds
born jaw-dropped. I was tough in the husk.
Went years untouched by rain. Took shelter
seriously, even and often especially
in good weather, my tears like teenagers
hiding under the hoods of my eyes,
so committed they were to never falling
for the joke of astonishment.
When I was told there were seven
wonders of the world, I trusted the math,
believed I had seen none of them.
Of course, beauty hunted me.
It hunts everyone. But I outran it, hid
in worry, regret, the promise of an afterlife
or a week’s end.
Then one day, in a red velvet theater
in New Orleans, I watched Maya Angelou
walk on stage. Seventeen slow steps to the mic.
She took a breath before speaking,
I could hear God being born in that breath.
My every pore reached out like a hand
pointing to the first unsinkable lotus in the bayou
of the universe. I’d never felt anything like it.
Searched the encyclopedia for the feeling’s name
when I got home: “Goosebumps.”
Afterward I thought—I can do this.
Started training morning to night,
crowbar swinging like a pendulum at the wall
of my chest. Tore the caution tape off
my life and let everything touch it:
Alan Iverson on the television in his first season
with the Sixers, crossover sharp as a v of sparrows
flying to the paint like Michelangelo’s brush:
My baby sister, sober for the first time
in thirteen years, calling to tell me she just noticed
our mother’s eyes are green:
One day my friend scored tickets
to a Prince concert. Tiny venue. I was right
behind the sound booth. Prince’s entire band
that evening—women. At the end of the show,
the sound person turned around and whispered,
He didn’t play one song on his set list the whole night.
I live on stages. I know what it is to scratch a plan
but not the whole trip and still arrive to your destination
two hundred years before your time:
421 (artists formerly known as) goosebumps.
But that’s just the fancy stuff.
Some of them came from simple facts—
it rains diamonds on Jupiter.
Blood donors in Sweden receive
a thank-you message when their blood is used.
One night in Michigan, my friend,
still undiagnosed, could not uncurl her fingers
to strum her guitar, so she sang the chords instead.
It was the first time in my life I’d seen pain
become an instrument:
10 dozen goosebumps
for each and every note plucked
from the string section of her refusal to silence
her dream. After that, nothing in the world was gray.
Even the movie of my past was released in color.
The oldest man in my hometown could not
get to the door to listen to our carols,
so we went inside and sang at his bedside instead.
Twenty-four boots on the front step catching snowflakes with their tongues:
At one point, everything started doing it:
A sincere apology.
An enemy’s love poem.
The moon rising over the continental divide.
My love and I thought it was a car
driving off a cliff, and suddenly nothing
in the world was dying. You ever felt that?
A split second when nothing in the world is dying?
and the next day I sharpened a tiny ax
so I could split the seconds myself.
Too much lives in a moment
to not feed it to the fire in the heart, slow.
A Missoula treehouse filled with candlelight.
The octopus documentary.
The biggest dog in the shelter
hiding behind a teacup chihuahua,
and the woman who came to adopt a cat
taking all three of them home.
There is no escaping the magic now.
Beauty caught me and never let me go.
And the thing about the world record
is—if someone breaks it after me,
oh, and they will break it after me,
I will love that so much
that without even trying,
I’ll just break it again.
By Andrea Gibson