GABRIELLE MARTIN is a sophomore at Emerson College pursuing a BA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing. She is returning from her fall semester abroad, where she attended classes at Emerson’s Kasteel Well campus in the Netherlands. When not attending school in Boston, she lives with her mother and two dogs on the South Shore of Massachusetts.
A Long List of Farewells
Nineteen is so fleeting
but I am unbothered in the spring sunshine.
I lie in bed awake for hours,
bones too tired to leave the caress of the mattress;
too late to be relevant, I have nothing but fondness
for the shoebox I have occupied in these winter months.
I will hold to the mornings of waking
to the sound of dumpster-rummaging raccoons;
in retellings, I will call it “TRASH ALLEY” —
that is what we have called it for so long
I cannot remember its’ given name.
There has been no aspect of perfection,
none, in these three months;
the messes have been performed
in multitudes, in a variation of mediums.
I am proud of the fingerprints I have left here,
proud to leave these traces of me behind
for those who will come to pass here.
An Inevitable Reflection to the Rain
The first raindrop
stains the dirt of the baseball diamond,
the second turns it to mud
and “Here Comes the Sun”
is projected over the stands.
She is laughing as she tugs on her jacket,
announcing, “This DJ has a cruel sense of humor,”
and we all cannot help but agree
with wide smiles set on our faces.
I think back to three months ago —
I am forever thinking back to three months ago —
when I was so well-acquainted with the rain
it was like we were friends;
we met in passing often enough.
“American?” the baker would ask
when she saw me, smile and ask again,
“Are we missing the sun?”
(I never was.
I did not look back to three months then.
I do not like to look back to three months from then.)
These past few weeks have been a process of
transitioning nostalgia to another era
coming to pass.
There is a place
I have loved above all others,
a hidden place hidden
between the fields
that are an abundance of green
and the sleepiest town
I ever have seen,
beneath the circling crows
and all I produce
has become a love poem
to this place,
but I am helpless
to this nostalgia.
To the River Maas,
under the linden-trees,
in the shadows of Kasteel
I dream of the gilded gates
opening to greet me,
welcoming me home.
Summertime looks like
blinding headlights on the winding roads of Jerusalem
with the tall grasses dancing in the winds of the Atlantic
and we are heading right over a cliff —
Her thumb –
nail painted robin’s egg blue –
hovers, and for a moment,
there is nothing between
her skin and his name.
What else is there
to be said but
“old habits die hard”?
The wind picks up,
propelling pastel-colored sail boats
across the Charles,
entering the space between her
and another summer
strung full of bad decisions
like crumpled clothes on a wash line.
She sees the daffodils
on the opposite bank of the river
and decides she should wear more
of their color.
He has forever been blue
and with him,
her life blossomed green
but that season in her life has passed;
now she wears a coat louder
than the traffic on Massachusetts Avenue
and turns her back on the wind,
on that time of her life.
In a Castle hidden among the cornfields,
protected with two moats drudged into the wet earth,
there is a pine tree being decorated with snowflakes.
In a room of brilliant hues of reds and deep shades of greens,
I am wearing the biggest smile I can manage
while confronted with the upcoming inevitable departure from this place
where I grew wings and became acquainted with the skies.
Happiness was the warmest it had ever been there,
even on the coldest of December nights
when the banks of the River Maas wore a frost
and the American Dream I had been taught to chase
donned a different flag and danced on the dew.
I can forever return to these memories but never this time;
that autumn was a season in this lifetime that was all too fleeting
and longing pangs in the gut with a dull ache.
The Finish Line Is In Sight, But I Am No Marathon Runner
I can never seem to catch up
with those forging a path ahead of me,
and in the distance I can see the finish line
but there are seven hills between it and I
and I am no champion of endurance
and these past four months have felt like
there’s just not enough air in these weak lungs of mine
no matter how I gasp or grasp or go about it
and just listen for it next time: that sharp
exhale that follows each inhale,
that distinct little wheezing of the lungs,
of being out-of-breath and panting,
waiting in desperation for a pause
but it never comes: instead I find
there is even less time and so much more to be done
in this rat race of life I am running.
An Exercise of Self-Reflection
When are we allowed to be selfish? And what differentiates
self-love from self-obsession? What is to be gained from
being beautiful if time weaves wrinkles into all of our skin,
all the same? What am I losing when I exchange a smile
for a handful of quarters? What if it was a fistful? What
would I do then?
I used to dream of “something better”s, each time settling on a different variation, week-to-week and month-after-month; eleven months later, I am going out to find it. I have gained weight, built up muscle, stored some fat — I am no longer starving from broken promises. Whatever attachment I had was broken between connecting flights; now it lives on the wing of an airplane coasting over the blues of the Mediterranean, fragments scattering onto the shores below. I was baptized each time it rained in the Low Lands, left drenched and bare-boned at the River Maas with nowhere to go but Home.
The Window in 110
It is a small, rectangular view
overlooking the jungle of concrete
with brownstones in the backdrop,
and plastic bags blow in the air
like tumbleweeds dancing
circles around the desert wind.
Strings of lights frame the window
and cast a warm glow over the dumpsters
and there is someone singing,
settled on the fire escape,
about starless skies overhead.
I am named for the wilderness of the Sierra,
and I, too, am sculpted from glaciers;
a woman made of ice,
formed under pressure
just like the mountains
with skin speckled like pink granite.
I see the heights I could climb
in the peaks of these mountains.
Some Things Just —
I can still remember smelling
that afternoon on the Green Line,
but I can never remember the exact moment
ceased to cross.
Look to Picasso
Look to Picasso!
He always could
in such brutality.
Shallow As the Sea (Rock Me To Sleep)
drawing inspiration from Elizabeth Bishop’s Insomnia (1951)
Last night was nothing more than a test-taste of of insomnia, smelling of smoke and aerosol.
The moon in the bureau mirror looks like something of nights long-past;
sometimes I am overwhelmed with longing for the land whose skies were clearer.
These months have been unfamiliar to Luck; she never smiles at me.
When I did dream, it was of the universe deserted,
a barren waste, a collection of no-man’s lands
and the cities were nothing but leaf jungles, overgrown with nature reasserted —
but even in the remnants of ruin, he was there, winged among the rubble.
I would have told him go to hell, but all defiance deflated the moment he flew in.
He stored me in the drawer the pins and needles until I wasn’t there, until I was
running through the fields and when I could run no further, I jumped down the well.
Lay Me Down
The sea, your eyes, sky —
nothing is bluer than you.
I knew your color.
The thrill of it lies in the wait,
in the sensation of anticipation,
in the tingling through the toes
and the shivers sent up the spine;
sleep escaped us in our excitement
for uncharted adventures ahead.
Rome opened its arms and ushered us
between all seven hills
and into the waters of the Trevi,
our bare feet still damp
as we made our escape
running through the cobblestone streets.
Life was as sweet as chocolate cake
before ten in the morning
and it tasted like possibilities;
I feel as if I am still waiting,
air withheld from the lungs,
for something I found there.
She tells me “things interfere
with the American Dream” –
in this age
I am not surprised,
but how could I be?
When minimal is not livable
and debt accumulates
to the ceilings
of this shoebox bedroom
that has cast me into
a decade of struggle?
I think of the woman I met
on the corner of Haviland
who was sleeping on the streets.
She had placed a world of promise
on a bus ticket
to New Hampshire,
to her mother’s.
I search for her face,
scanning the crowds of people
I pass on the street,
and all for hoping
to never see her again,
for her to have made it
to New Hampshire.
Two of Hearts
How should I start? From the beginning?
It would be so much easier if I could remember,
if the memories collected in pieces rather than fragments.
There was hot charcoals ablaze,
embers glowing into the night
like fireflies, like lightning bugs,
in the crook of the lake’s neck.
Water moccasins hang from the trees
above bushes of blueberries
too ripe to be plucked from the vine.
There was the smell of dust, of chalk,
in the sunlight peeking through the blinds,
of snow melted into pockets of coats,
of dog snuggled into the faded rug.
It’s all a metaphor, isn’t it?
There are worn wooden shingles
and the entire world sits poolside
and life is a shimmering blue.
He is swan-diving into the deep end
at noon and just three hours later
he is seizing on the front lawns
of well-manicured green grass
with rollerblades sliding on the pavement,
attached to his twitching limbs.
There is salt in the rain
and I swear I can smell it;
the ocean must have seeped into this town,
saturated in the pores in the roads and locals
and bleached it all white.
Christiana is the place where I felt most at peace
on this planet
but here, in this bedroom tonight, is a close second.
When we’re together, all we can stand to do is reminisce
it feels a little like the best times are behind us.
I have been taught that some seasons of our lives
are warmer than others,
but I never have been able to regret a sunburn.
I consume all the sweets I can find,
searching for the taste
of something like three months of freedom.
I am a tree that has grown her branches
before her roots.
Keeping Things Whole
She dances because he tells her to,set to the scheme of a pop song
and there is a crawling beneath her skin
and behind her heart.
She is supposed to be grieving;
instead we find her singing in the car
to the songs that have carried her.
looking out to the streets
where the musicians sing late into the night;
together with the traffic-sounds,
their melodies make love to the pavement.
How is it that
all I can see
is their vision of me,
reflected in their vacant gaze?
It is no secret
that her great collapse
occurred at the end of March,
when her breath was
dragged down in her lungs.
If the devil himself
was knocking at at the door,
arms open and bursting with flame
she would insist,
“Make me an offer I can’t refuse.”
You might find her
at the edge of the forest
when the skies are decorated
with nothing but purple cloud;
not now, when the skies are so blue.
“share a secret,”
like she meant
“spill into me.”
She was loving someone else
just two summers ago;
she had to believe she would again
but the recent drought
had delivered a slight shake
to her confidence.
“You don’t even know me,”
she would insist
with a the glare.
She is still searching
to regain her innocence
but there’s wax on her fingers
that she has spilled there,
staining the skin.
Hours before she had stood
in the same spot
and looked at her hands
“Did it end there?”
“I’m not afraid of loud thoughts,”
I declare to noone but the wind.
I am pacing back-and-forth and
back-and-forth and back again
on the carpeted floors of our narrow,
narrow room and I am alone with these
loud thoughts. There are a few dark thoughts,
too, all hidden, just tucked in the back of the closet
but I am just familiar enough with them that
there is an understanding between us:
there will be no fear here. There is just no room for fear
here, in this room, narrow like a shoebox. And so
I decide that I am not afraid of loud thoughts;
instead, I am at ease among the dwellers here,
alone in this room with these thoughts and free to do
as I please. I inhale the scent of fresh linen
and I sing to the fans blowing the breeze, and I
tell the whole block that I am not afraid of loud thoughts.
I engage them all, because I have know silence,
and it has made me loud.
I Love the Smell of a Match Burning Out
I didn’t care much.
Her opening line was,
“Hindsight is a bitch,”
and don’t we know it?
We all kissed in the jungle –
that was when our undoing
began to unravel.
I don’t care much now
because there was a time all I did was care
and it brought me nowhere
but back to him time and time again.
She tells me I have trouble letting things go
but I never want to give up on people
because of the people that gave up on me.
I lied to her because I hated that she worried about me,
I hated the moment she had to tell me
and the burden of deadweight I had left in her arms.
I think about our long walks on the boardwalk
and the feeling of a sunburn on the shoulders
and waking up smelling like tobacco.
In a bathroom
with tiles of vibrant blues and pinks
reminiscent of another decade,
the shower is on and filling the room with steam.
A towel is shoved beneath the door,
in the crack that leads to carpet, to seal the gap
and there are sand dollar doves in the air.
The winds have fogged,
blurring the outside world,
smoothing the lines of the tall oak trees
that stand tall, dividing the homes
of Abbott Avenue.
The Green Line After Nine
A thousand sounds:
a low hum,
boots clacking and
someone, here, is falling in love,
and someone here is falling apart.
Do birds think about getting older,
or is that particular exercise
exclusive to humans?
Hand-in-hand with that,
can the chirp of a bird’s song
be compared to the poems I write?
We are the stories we tell ourselves,
but what are the birds?
What are their stories?
Sometimes, in their melodies,
I suspect the birds know
something of happiness –
something that escapes me.
The pigeons in the park scatter
as I stride through their camp,
where masses of birds
can be found clawing at the pavement.
I can still hear them from miles below
from where their webbed feet land,
creating harmonious melodies
to the screaming of the trains.
Summertime means returning
to the sounds of birdsong
breaking with the dawn;
the other three seasons wake me
with the noise of the great metropolis
coming to life each morning.
Outskirts and Outcasts
The circle of glass magnified the coral cameo of the beardless man;
if asked, we both would have sworn that it fell there on its own accord
(because it did) and I was left with the task of interpreting that.
We pass through a tomb with two lovers encased inside,
in permanence for all of Death, and I think how I want someone
worth turning to dust for just to have our ashes mixed together.
The afternoon is spent lost among the relics of decades gone past;
when we find ourselves slipping from the grasp of the melodrama
that tethers us to the present, we know we have gone far enough.
The world has pushed us to the edge in these hopeless months of winter,
where the artists have to look inward to find inspiration,
where the rest of the world is so barren, stripped of life.
I need tender care to regrow what has been taken from me,
what I lost in relations with a man I once thought was deep as a well
but proved to be nothing more than a shallow sandbar in the sea.
Pit-stops are for resting, but I have never been the sitting-still kind;
I dream about the fragments I have collected that tell our stories
far better than I ever could through written word.
On the edge of town, standing on the edge of the soggiest river,
nowhere near the stars and stripes I grew up clutching,
I breath in the smell of freedom and it tastes so sweet.
Outskirts and outcasts flock to me like the pigeons in the Commons
to the man who takes them on his arms and in his hands
and offers them the broken remnants of the Bread of Life.
I think about summer and the feeling of sun-on-skin,
of the salt in the air of the Atlantic and the hills of Jerusalem
beckoning me towards their center, welcoming me home.