Mark Bibbins


The opposite of irony is not

sincerity       it's hopelessness

Speaking of which I was struck

by how handsome

one of the commuters stepping

over us was as I lay

with ACT UP on the floor

of Grand Central Station

at 5:07 pm on January 23 1991

and how effectively that handsomeness

seemed to amplify the anger

in his eyes     

              Everything about him said he would

be perfectly happy to kick any of us

in the head

for interrupting his timely egress

                     to Westchester

but he was well enough versed

in the ways of rage

to know what would have happened

                                          if he'd done it

Only now do I recognize the humor

in ACT UP dropping over the arrivals board

a banner that read


and that I was lucky to have the luxury

of deciding not to get myself

arrested that day


Today is March 30   

the 30th anniversary of ACT UP

and tomorrow Gilbert Baker     the man

who created the rainbow flag

                                                        will die

Strange not to know whether one's life has

an asterisk hanging next to it

or is itself the asterisk

Strange to look vainly for oneself in history

and stranger to realize

that there is a chance

one might find oneself there






I remember doing this once as a kid

watching a mosquito land on my

forearm then making a fist

after it stuck its sucker in

the muscle fixing it there on my skin

as my blood persisted in filling

the insect's abdomen until

it finally ruptured

leaving a smear

of my blood on my arm

Instead of arm I first typed art


I tried changing it and changing it

and changing it again


Now I don't know what to do






It's halfway through October 2017

and New York woke up finally

to what feels

like it could be fall and the news

that a school district in Mississippi

is banning To Kill a Mockingbird again

              and nobody

                            because white people

                            are quadrupling down  

                            so spectacularly on their bullshit this year

              is surprised


Last week I quoted someone

out of context about irony

and in doing so probably

made myself some extra enemies

Later my friend mentioned

tenor and vehicle

the two components of metaphor

but it's no use I can never remember

which is which            I'm afraid

I don't respond

to stimuli in the way

I'm supposed to


I tried looking up

the size of a blue whale's heart

and it turns out no it's not

as big as a small car after all

but the National Geographic website

reassures everyone that it's still pretty big

and that the blue whale's heart

needs a better metaphor

The website asks     

How big is your own heart


When we find out  

that the president has made a joke

about the vice president wanting

to hang all the gays

our hearts are not surprised

nor is it exactly surprise I read

on the apostle Thomas's face

where Caravaggio has painted

him slipping     with Jesus's help

one finger into the hole

in Jesus's side     a hole that resembles

other things that also are holes


We're told it's doubt that drives

Thomas and perhaps that's close enough  

                            It looks like he's about

                                          to stroke

                                          the human heart

of Jesus     but for the fact

that the hole is on the wrong side







13th Balloon is mostly an elegy for Mark Crast, who died of AIDS in 1992 at the age of 25.