Celia Gilbert

Musical Setting of "Swan Boy"
by Kate Chadbourne


When the sun falls in the ocean
and waves froth at the sand’s edge,
he comes to walk and listen
to the sea birds cries, calling him home.
The rising moon looks down pale as his sister when,
reaching in haste, her bruised and bleeding fingers
threw over him the nettle shirt she wove
to break his enchantment...,
and the one sleeve still unfinished.

Too late to plead he didn’t want the burden
of earthbound flesh.
Too late to return to long star-driven flights,
to hours of perfect rest rocking on water.
Memories of beating wings that threshed heaven with their white curves, now
diminished to one feathered arm concealed at his side
free only for darkened moments on restless nights
to stretch and relive a world,
his once, his only sphere.


          "Uranus father of the gods was castrated by his son
Cronus who threw his genitals into the ocean which churned and
 foamed about them. And from the sea foam (apros) Aphrodite

                                     .... Hesiod

Out of the depths where shadowy fish
release eggs and milt to cover new life
in effortless commingling,
she rises at low tide and makes her way
over sword-sharp eel grass,
snails like tiny comets,
glitter of broken glass,
and scattered rounds of rubbers
where sea rushed in replacing spunk.

She wades out to a buoy's tolling,
pausing a moment to wring water from her long hair,
water still sluicing down her thighs.
Wavelets embrace her feet,
while sandpipers run before her,
their tiny heft scribbling warnings on shifting sands
to the crowds running to greet her.


She drives across the country,
no one to stop her,
man-freedom, snatched by a woman,
truck stops, motels, putting on the brakes,
key in ignition makes her fire,
and utter sky more and more of it,
patchwork clouds,
dark streaky ones,
sings a lot of good songs
about bad men and lowdown women,
rolls down the window and leans out,
her arm and elbow just so, how they do it
she does it too
and has dreams
dangerous as cumuli.

Then Reno,
(dare to gamble
dare to uncommit),
city legendary as Rome
but will be ghosted
like the abandoned mining towns she passes,
nothing and no one to dig anything.
Strange to feel so alive
and yet in the brain
a notion of NOT.
Foot to the pedal
hand to shift stick
firm like a man at his best
but the stick won’t let her down

Freedom a dish best served
three times a day,
even without salt it has a savor;
put in an “i” get savior
does it mean there is one in the other?

This is what she thinks alone,
alone and no one, none, to speak,
unless she speaks to what she wants.
And if this is a grade B movie
no one can gainsay she’s the star.


Shrill/in night/
by day/
"Hunger candle in mouth..."*
and I not I only
an ear
to their "us"
insistent chorus, I, too, call out,
rush forward rounder-than-wheels
the chariots of
the riding/ruling ones...

how many bulls
how many heifermaidens
and the fallen-under ones
into the earth,

middens of woebegone
where pickaxe
lays its tooth.

*Paul Celan, Atemwede


She walks down the sun-warmed path.
Pines jig-sawed the sky
in pieces of blue and white,
and birds cast their notes
over light and shade.

The warmth makes her drowsy
and the silence, abashed,
as if she had broken into someone’s house.
Alongside the path she spied
a flower with drooping spikes of red.

She searches for the name,
for how could she possess it without its name?
And then it came:
and she remembers,
the boy she seduced.
The cabin walls had a perfume
not unlike the pines
and light, filtered though copper screens,
had rested on their bed,
where no one could hear them.

She had to let him go and finally
after years of regret,
there was a healing.

Copyright  © 2013 Celia Gilbert


Celia Gilbert is the author of four books of poetry, Queen of Darkness, Viking, Bonfire, Alice James Books, and the most recent, Something to Exchange, BlazeVOX[books], 2009. An Ark of Sorts, Alice James Books, won a Jane Kenyon Chapbook award. In 2009 a collection of her work appeared in a Polish-English edition in Warsaw under the imprint Czuły Barbarzyńca.

She is the winner of a Discovery Award from the 92nd St. YM-YWHA, a Consuelo Ford Award, and an Emily Dickinson Prize, both from the Poetry Society of America, and a Pushcart Prize IX.

Her work has appeared among other places in Poetry, The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, Southwest Review, and Ploughshares as well as the online journals, Inertia and Memorious. Her work has been frequently anthologized.

Her art can be viewed at http://celiagilbert.artspan.com

Books by Celia Gilbert