Elisa Gabbert



Lately before bed
I hear voices—

muffled, overlapping,
like messages
on a worn-out tape.

I look up
"auditory hallucinations."

I read an essay
about "aura," the premonition               
of a migraine. Of course,

I think—the suffering
that comes before

real suffering,
trivial in retrospect.

They are asking questions

but not for me to answer.
I'm the third person.




Something about fish
that is melancholy—everyone
at the koi pond knows this.

And morning, just by sound,
is macabre.

You construct a self
out of things only a few
people see every day.

The public has primacy
over the private—it pains me
to admit. But privacy

can't just be about shame.
I want to have things
I'm proud of to myself.

How you are alone—
it's almost erotic.
Is that taboo?

Wake up in the dark,
une fille en aiguilles,
a girl in needles.

They flick away.




I have discovered
that two dull activities
become interesting together;

take cleaning while
listening to Brahms.

A nothing little
snow outside.

Eyelashes in a library book.

With no other body
to look at, I look at
my own body.

I remember taking pictures
of myself and waiting
for the film to develop.

I dislike what I see,
but remain arrogant.



Just like the future,
the past branches out
into infinite possibilities.

I keep trying to look back
at a different path.

Then comes the sense
that it doesn't matter.
Alack, alack, alack.

I consult the list of things
that reliably make me happy
(or forget that I'm not):

Driving, with music.
Painting (if it's good).
Poker, Hearts, Gin.

The mind rejects them.
Chooses the image.






These poems are taken from a manuscript of persona poems based on the Judy character from Wallace Shawn's play The Designated Mourner. I'm in them too, of course, so the speaker is not Shawn's Judy and not me but a third person.