Two Poems – Wil Gibson

Shelby-Lee-Adams-Napier-Family-11



POP

He thought he was wrong once. He was 
mistaken. He's mistaken almost always, 
wounded by banshees and band mates, been 
handed empty promises a bunch, and driven 
drunk more times than anyone ever has in 
history. HE IS DRIVING DRUNK THIS 
VERY SECOND SOMEWHERE IN 
ARKANSAS. Everything has almost killed 
him.

He works relentlessly. Breathes the same 
breaths as bad men and broken brilliance, 
often in the same day.

His time clock sits chest high in front of him, 
and then he winds himself from truck wheels 
to porch to computer desk, leaving a trail of 
nicotine, methane, and beer cans in his wake. 
He wins small wars in smaller towns 
everyday that the sun decides it has the 
strength to shine or be seen.

Building roads isn't always a metaphor. When 
some people build roads, it hurts their back, 
knees become rubber toys left in the sun by 
the work that makes hands bloody.

My father's hands are always bloody.



Funerals are Family Reunions or The fortune cookie monster speaks a 21 gun salute. 
(for Uncle Phil)

1.
No fortune cookie he gave me ever warned 
of his heart stopping on an Arkansas two 
lane highway. No soft tan crack ever told 
him to be cautious driving alone. Fortune 
cookies can not really see the future. Fun 
desserts can not save your life.

2.
Not being able to say goodbye is a tornado 
on the horizon. You can feel the rumble and 
sorrow on the surface, but have to wait out 
the storm. 

3.
When a loved one dies, family becomes 
lightning rod safety for the shock of loss. 
That is what keeps your house from 
burning down. 

4.
Most families say, “Mother-in-law, 
Brother-in-law, Sister-in-law,” etc. 
No one ever says “Uncle-in-law.” My 
family refuses all of this. We are a “Family-
in-love.” Warts and all. My family is a wart 
covered witch capable of the most beautiful 
toothless magic. From racist whites, to 
albino blacks, we are a checkered past, and 
zebra stripped future. We do not need your 
approval. 

5.
At the funeral, five generations sat together 
on a couch. Eighty years apart and 
hundreds of relatives in common. No one 
thought to take a picture. A voice behind 
me said, “this is real tough, but god help us 
all when the old man goes,” meaning my 
Grandaddy. At a certain age, “if” becomes 
“when.” Some of us are born at that age, 
some never reach it. 

6.
Some people collect guns for protection, 
others for ego, others out of anger. Uncle 
Phil collected guns like toys or 
baseball cards. For fun. A racist anarchist 
who paid his taxes, he was a patriot with no 
concept of borders.

7.
Arkansas breeds better fireflies and 
mosquitoes than cotton. Illinois breeds 
better fireflies and mosquitoes than corn. 
Most families are fireflies, my family are 
all mosquitoes.

8.
I hugged a cousin whose name I couldn’t 
remember. I hadn’t seen him since a 1987 
wedding. Funerals are family reunions. 
There are times to be thankful for death. 

9.
I handed a copy of my newest book to a 
different cousin. There was a poem about 
her, but no true acknowledgment of who 
she was in the book. I felt like a plagiarist. 
I felt like an irresponsible child. I’m sorry 
Shonda.

10. 
Illinois and Arkansas are the only states 
with a silent “S” at the end. Boom, 
metaphor.

11.
Living 1,600 miles from your family is the 
easiest long distance relationship you will 
ever have because the opportunity for sex 
has been removed from the equation. 
Hopefully.

12.
At least two members of my family have 
been married to someone they were related 
to before the wedding. Those are the 
confirmed cases.

13.
It wasn’t me. Although, I did have 
confusing feelings about a cousin once.

14. 
My family will probably not talk to me for 
a while after reading this poem, but will 
forgive me because they are my family and 
already know I’m an asshole. (Besides, half 
of them can’t read and the other half will 
be too busy pointing fingers about numbers 
12 and 13 to be all that angry.)

15. 
My family deals with loss through bad 
jokes, pot, booze, and arguments. All of us 
larger than life itself in each other’s eyes. 
When one of us dies, the ruckus will be as 
loud as the love was.

16.
When Uncle Phil died we partied for two 
days. We shed tears and hangovers like 
skin. We rode motorcycles, fast, and prayed 
like hell if we did get pulled over it would 
be by a member of the family and not some 
regular cop. Most of us had warrants, 
broken hearts, and a pretty good buzz. A 
less than healthy combination for driving 
an unregistered bike, but perfect for a 
funeral or family reunion. 

17.
I loved my Uncle Phil

18.
My Uncle Phil loved me.

19. 
Once, when I was eight or so, Uncle Phil 
took my parents and I out for dinner while 
he and Mama’s sister, Aunt Patti, were up 
for a visit. Chinese food. He saw how 
much I liked the fortune cookies and 
bought an extra dozen to take home. The 
cookies were meant for all of us, but in the 
morning, while the adults slept, I snuck 
into the kitchen and ate them. I denied 
knowledge of the cookies when asked, no 
doubt crumbs on my lips and little white 
guilty verdict paper slips falling from my 
pockets like little white lies. Uncle Phil 
dubbed me the “fortune cookie monster.” 
He called me that until the day he died. 
Every time we saw each other he bought 
me fortune cookies. Sometimes, they were 
chocolate covered. 

20. 
Family is a gift that I have not always 
remembered to cherish. There are people 
who are always on my side, even when I’m 
wrong.

21.
Especially when I’m wrong.

About awhitetrashpoet


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