When we were barely still children,
city limit signs sealed our fate.
We saw our town as either stable or irreversible.
No one ever told us those words could be synonyms.

When chemicals became solutions,
we never saw the way out.
We fucked like teenagers
because we were teenagers.
We bought and sold pot through
drive-thru windows, got into fights
behind the bowling alley, and
drove in circles around town.
There was always a broken heart
to soothe, more often than not
your own.

We ran out of distraction, and created it
by burying speedometers on back roads
with our headlights and sense of safety
both off. Lost in cornfields and drainage
creeks, all of us firefly gorgeous
and water bug quick.

We saw smoke roll up from car hoods
and cook houses in the twenty miles
between each town, most of them
less than a thousand strong
and struggling to breathe
through the fumes
and harvest dust.

BYOB strip clubs with loose
ID procedures were the norm.
Nothing shocked us.

We snatched tassels from the
tops of corn stalks every summer
for two dollars an hour,
ten hours a day,
until we turned fifteen,
then we made minimum wage
or weren’t asked to come back.
We dealt with the harvest brought
every autumn by wronging rights.
We were drunk on youth,
the truth we might be trapped in,
and the cheapest alcohol in history.

For ten dollars you could get
ten jugs of Thunderbird wine,
or a dozen forty ounce Old Styles,
or a fifth of something rot gut
and a twelve pack,
but no one had ten dollars.
We passed the Friday night collection plate,
bought booze at Sunset by the Wal-Mart
because my cousin worked there
and wouldn’t card me, then drove out
into the darkness to beat down the crops
in the fields and each other.

We all dated and cheated
with and on each other
and got caught and broke up
or didn’t get caught and got married.

When winter came, everything died and got cold.
The snow and ice broke power lines and people.
Everything froze or was frozen, everything broke
was broken. We rarely felt whole.

Some of us followed the wind
across the freshly planted rows
in the spring right on out of town,
past the curve of the earth we had
never tried to see beyond.
Some wanted more than a
farm, factory, or pharmaceutical future,
and flew away from the breeze that
blew the dreams from our heads.

Some never flew. Never moved.

Still live in the houses their parents died in.
Stayed still as soybeans waiting to be harvested.
Some got harvested and replanted
into the same ground that birthed them.
They became the jagged, ugly sticks
that keep the top soil
from blowing away.

TAGS: , ,

WIL GIBSON was born from a good idea and a bottle of bourbon and raised in some of the poorest communities northern Illinois and eastern Arkansas have to offer. His publications include Harvest The Dirt (great weather for MEDIA, 2015), Home and Other Places (Moon Pie Press), A Couple’s Guide To Panic Attacks w/ Jen Jacques (Sargent Press) and a March 2016 release from Swimming With Elephants Press. Poems also appear in online and print journals such as Midwestern Gothic, Radius, Drunk in a Midnight Choir, and Electric Cereal. Wil has performed with or opened for Regie Gibson (no relation), Charlie Neville, Brother Ali, mybrightestdiamond, Toki Wright, Patricia Smith, and Kurtis Blow (among others) in well over a hundred dive bars, high schools, colleges, poetry slams, libraries, living rooms, restaurants, prisons, coffee houses, and churches from Bellingham, Washington to Boston, Massachusetts and beyond. In addition, he was runner up at the 2010 and 2011 Arkansas Grand Slam, audience favorite 2010 Arkansas Grand Slam, three time (2008-2010) Portland, Maine/Port Veritas Grand Slam Champion, one time (2010) New Hampshire/Slam Free or Die Grand Slam Champion, one time (2015) Humboldt County Grand Slam Champion, has won the chance to represent Portland, Maine 6 times (2008-2012, 2014) and Humboldt County, California once (2015) at the National Poetry Slam, including the 2011 Portland team that made semifinals, and coached 3 (2008, 2012-2013) NPS teams. Wil likes people and dogs a lot. He would like to pet your dog, and maybe talk to you a few minutes about lighthouses or random historical facts.

2 responses to “To Those Who Didn’t from Those Who Did”

  1. Well done, Wil. I really enjoy your work. Welcome to the TNB family.

  2. Linda Thacker says:

    Mournful, sad and beautiful. Fucking Awesome.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *