Mark Bibbins was born in 1968 in Albany, New York, received his MFA from The New School, and has lived in New York City since 1991. A founding editor of the journal LIT, he has taught at SUNY-Purchase, and now teaches in The New School’s MFA program. Individual poems have appeared in Boston Review, Colorado Review, The Paris Review, Poetry, The Yale Review and elsewhere, including the anthologies T he Best American Poetry 2004 and Great American Prose Poems. Bibbins received a Lambda Literary Award for his collection of poems Sky Lounge (Graywolf, 2003), and was awarded a 2005 Poetry Fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts.
by Mark Bibbins
Before prayer in the schools we had the Crusades
and we cleaned out the stockpot once a year.
Virtually everything we ate induced narcosis,
a condition we often confused with god.
Some told of a river that ran outside the city walls
and of how it moved to avoid their touch,
a giant serpent twisting forever away. If it wasn’t the devil
it was the work of the devil, like everything else we wanted.
Remorse held us together until we died young
and most of us never realized we were mammals—
indeed we were suspicious of birds but rats, well, rats
we found charming, with their eyes so full
of sympathy, their need for warmth like our own. We also
wanted love to suffice. Flies that collected on the lesions
of the dying: angels one and all: no one could be too careful.
It seemed a flood was forever rinsing ideas from my tongue
so I said nothing or spoke louder, I was always drowning.
I couldn’t have changed anything.
All right there was the alchemist
and I loved him but I could not save him.
Once I dreamt of electricity. Was this the river,
the one that altered its course like a wounded thing?
We had no trees, only sticks.
Huge gears turned in the sky.
reprinted from Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century with permission from Sarabande Books.