February 1999

Mark Bibbins


Henry Taylor

  Mark Bibbins

  Sharon Cumberland
  Philip Dacey
  Daniela Gioseffi
  Brent Goodman
  Mark Halperin
  Ben Howard
  Stellasue Lee
  Linda Lerner
  John McKernan
  DeWayne Rail
  David Rigsbee
  Peter Robinson
  Terry Savoie
  Joseph Stanton
  Mary Winters

David Grayson

Lloyd Schwartz

Rosa Shand
  Daniela Gioseffi

Mark Bibbins Mark Bibbins lives in New York City and teaches a poetry workshop at The New School.  His first collection, Swerve, appears in Take Three: 3 (Graywolf Press).  Individual poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry, The Yale Review, The Paris Review, Boston Review and elsewhere.
In the Distances of Sleep    Click to hear this poem in RealAudio

Erasing is the daily work of dusk
and this pliant sky is ours to fill up
as we desire, the way wind would a sail.
Those animals outlined in the stars are
certainly not waiting around for us
to tame them, so keep your eyes plugged in tight
or you might miss something that will astound
no one. Had we stayed in our beds, Pisces
would go on swimming through the wet heavens.
How have we come to the water again?
Even if I knew I couldn't tell
you. It's later than it's ever been—
watch the silent bay invert the stars.
What have you done with the moon, you ask.
In here?—your hand inside my pocket.
A breeze shifts and tiny waves respond
like a jittery flock of wet birds.
Inside the sky, all folded up now,
my minky starshine, my cloven fin.
Pull me through your beltloops; we'll wade in
further. I want to stroke the boats
from beneath, to read the Braille of
barnacles. These ribbons of kelp
could measure my distance from you,
were you not always the first to
emerge. The fish have lost their eyes—
darker creatures will ignore us.
Please hoist me up, I'm sightless too.
Distortion is a lucent thing—
makes as good a sky as any.
Your voice comes out of my mouth—
over the back of the beach,
under the bones of the bridge.
This aimlessness suits us well.
We've crossed some narrative line,
now will we ever get home?
Tenements turn in their sleep;
streetlights arrange themselves and
sigh, "We've missed you, we've missed you,
the lovely scent of human."
The street is extending
its gray limbs in the dark.
Without a pause, you step
toward numberless strings on
as many instruments
and a lullaby sung
through a mouth full of bees.
Flowers spike the concrete,
blur your difficult dreams.
And no one walks through you.
Even in this place
where logic is skewed,
kisses plead guilty
before they're accused.
Oh, that you would come
near, fill up this blue—
is it cowardice,
the tendency to
tack on a hackneyed
My brittle hope
is that you will
remain when this
unsteady sleep
and the stars tow
away the black
freight of the night.
At their bidding,
we wax into
opaque light.
For whom are
they crying?
Do they wait
in our beds?
Do they want
to curl up
beside us?
We lack
the means
by which
to grasp
such sleep.
The town
and lets
us get
drunk with



When It Was Always Dark    Click to hear this poem in RealAudio

Even porch lights that made gold of the grass
        are lost,
and those birds that stitched across the moon—
    not birds, something else.

                No, do not think angels.

Fireflies, hands over flashlights—who wants them now?
        And what could shine its way again,
            so easily, through these fingers?

Fog assembling in a cool, low place;
            birches nodding against one another
    though there was no breeze.

However long we waited, it was not
            only to fill hours with waiting.
All we took with us on our way,
                all we have wept
            at being unable to forget.

Something pressed into a hand,
            no beloved thing, but sweet—
    small, and hard as luck is to arrange.
Full with love—what else could fit in its place?
                Someone once said dark.
                And nothing. That too.

        A hand on the curtain—whose—and who saw?
    There is no one to tell
of our dark animals—of how we made
        from the sky whatever light allows.



Truncated Elegy    Click to hear this poem in RealAudio

           for Jeff Buckley 1966-1997

Before he went under    did he notice    how the sky grew

thick with electric birds    or taste the rust of lungs     the ache

We wait in dry deltas for our drunken beautiful dead

to rise in a chemical kiss    and suck wine from our bones

We've left our doors unlocked in case his longing exceeds us

To have shifted abandon    into something tenable—

nourishment to endure the undertows of cognition

Flower in his teeth    love sung to one's own death    and the haze

he moved through    filtering the deposed light    the merlot sky



Mark Bibbins: Poetry
Copyright 1999 The Cortland Review Issue SixThe Cortland Review