Monday, June 15, 2009

Celia Gilbert's "Something to Exchange"

Celia Gilbert has a new book of poems.  They are super-sensitive, elegiac, beautifully phrased. Here are two:


I lifted the flowers from their green tissue.
Mimosa pudica:
tiny balls like ancient granulated gold,
balls that over time will grow fluffy;
when stroked its feathery leaves curl up shyly.
How could I thank him for
this acknowledgment?

He bought them for me,
thinking of me, I thought,
wanting to say things he couldn't say,
to give pleasure he couldn't give.
So, I existed.

In the somber kitchen, standing at the low sink,
I filled a vase, trimming the stems
before plunging them into the water
imagining the moment
when the stem goes faint, then quickly revives,
more open than before,
water wicking through its veins.

Father in His Summer Suit

Home from work, Father, in his summer suit,
comes down the country lane.
Honeysuckle spills over the hedges.
He takes a blossom and nips the foot
of its open-mouthed trumpet,
letting me taste one translucent drop.

"This is what we did when were were children,"
he says.
I scuff the soft dirt with bare feet
doubting he had been like me,
but try out the new skill.
In the shadows stood our summer house,
with its screened porch and squeaky glider.

All summer I tippled, drunk
on the connection to people long ago
who foraged in the wild--
and to my wild father--
so newly discovered.

Gilbert, who lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is the author of three other collections of poetry: "An Ark of Sorts," "Bonfire," and "Queen of Darkness."  She is also a printmaker and painter.  That's one of her monotypes on the cover of her new book.  


  1. Ms. Gilbert is the daughter of I.F. Stone.

  2. I.F. Stone was the independent investigative journalist, who published "I.F. Stone's Weekly," so important for many of us during the Vietnam War. Stone said, “You've really got to wear a chastity belt in Washington to preserve your journalistic virginity. Once the secretary of state invites you to lunch and asks your opinion, you're sunk.” Stone was incorruptible. Does knowing this help us to appreciate Gilbert's poem about the father in the white suit? I don't think so, but I would compare her pure lyricism to her father's pure purpose.