One Body

By MARGARET GIBSON

Margaret Gibson’s ninth book of poems, One Body, illuminates grief and celebration in equal measure. It begins with the death of a friend — or rather with the first shaken aftermath of that death. Standing in the friend’s kitchen, the poet sees:

?blue mats, yellow plates and cups,
a single jonquil in the bud vase
on the lazy Susan, and a hand–
Jeans’s hand-reaching
to turn nearer
the small blue and white pitcher?

Gibson’s poems resemble D�rer prints or Rembrandt paintings in their dedication to homely life. One sprig of basil fed to a dying woman conjures “goat cheese and a crust / of bread, the dust / of ruins and wild thyme. / ? her dead husband’s / living mouth.” Death haunts One Body — the poems grieve the death of friend, father, sister; a mother’s aging; “snipe and wolf / snow goose, dolphin, quail and lark.” But Gibson expresses an equally devout, passionate affection for living: “Tonight, though I would like to ease / The length of my body along the length / Of my husband’s and enter, breath / By breath, the heat two bodies make.” Lines break with deliberation. The poem’s rhythms are like rowing, purposeful and steady, and the poet’s vision is prayerfully attentive. At every opportunity Gibson pushes at boundaries of subject and form. The result is a book of exquisite sadness and hopeful beauty. “I have always been alone, and I have never been alone. / What I used to call the self is a winnowing of light / in the flood plain of the boundless.” -