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Graywolf Press, $15.00 (paper)
Twenty-two of the 62 poems in Dobby Gibson’s second book are called “Fortune.” Most no longer than fifteen lines, they begin with crystalline meditation: “There’s only one horizon, yet it can be found / in every direction we look.” Others read more like lines upended from fortune cookies: “Your luck for today: / The desire to have any is your first mistake.” And still others offer a koan: “Water always can be found / in close proximity to water. / Or so you discover while / snorkeling in your own lagoon.” The “fortune” of these poems gives pause in a book filled with water plunging, thawing, and freezing, with all the work of expansion those actions entail (appropriate for a book that announces itself on the cover with a head-on mug shot of an antiquated diving bell). Apart from the structural framework offered by the “Fortune” poems, a prefatory poem placed before the three sections of Skirmish posits a speaker who is both an insider and an outsider, someone connected, yet not: the poet is perhaps always a voice across time. In “Refuge,” Gibson writes, “My agent is disbelief. / My story might be real. / I’m not bleeding, but full of blood, I have potential.” This wry contradiction echoes the emptiness found throughout the book, an openness noted specifically in another “Fortune”: “We fold our laundry into shapes that help it to remember us.” Not only does this endow the capacity for memory upon the inanimate, yet highly intimate, but it also gives voice to the idea of the intention of memory, a sense of floating that is in tension with the movement and clear friction implied by the book’s title. And then, at the book’s most heartbreaking moments, a rupture ends the silent, wanting speculation. Ice falls from the float, “In the way the cold or a sudden kiss from a stranger / might remind you that you still have a face / good for being more than a window you’re forever looking through.”
Elisabeth Divis is an MFA candidate in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Michigan and a former writer in residence at Burns Elementary School in Detroit through InsideOut Literary Arts Project.
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