Poet Robert Gibbons, Ed '69 featured in Salem

Maria Carpenter and Poet Robert Gibbons

Northeastern Alumnus and prior Snell Library staff member Robert Gibbons, Ed. ’69 read selections from his works alongside Richard Hoffman at the Gathering, as part of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival. Here is a poem he read. Salem Came Back to Me Before I Came Back to Salem As I said to Bob Silva, who lived there on Rice Street just short of the Beverly Bridge, adjacent to Pilgrim Motel, so that late nights in summer all his brother & he had to do was scale a small fence to swim in the pool, Salem came back to me before I came back to Salem. Also late at night, during a brutal two hour bout with insomnia images arrived, not chronologically, but a montage of streets & workplaces, people & events, transient & permanent. I’ll document it as between 1:45-3:45 a.m., Monday, May 9th, 2011. From the ground up, that’s for sure, where I lived on Proctor Street with Mary & Harold & Aunt Bea, or Cambridge Street with my first wife, or Geneva with Kathleen. Working at Met-Com on Derby, the library on Lafayette, or cataloguing the broadside collection at the museum on Essex. I can’t reorder their non-chronological sequence, but driving down Boston Street one might see, as I did again, those neighborhood toughs Tarqui, or Pelletier, while Snowy & his crew emerged from the woodwork of the Willows’ neon arcades. The image of my father looking through Irish lace curtains to see if anyone bid on the family house on Liberty Hill Ave. during the auction held on the sidewalk outside. It’s not as if the same autobiographical information recently struggled with returned, no, it was geocentric, even if Salem were only a place traversed along the way to Marblehead, or Nahant, or in the opposite direction toward Cape Ann. I was all-eyes for a long time, an empty vessel looking for something to take the place of stark ignorance. I might be conversing with Mr. Roach, the bookseller across from Jerry’s Army & Navy, or eyeing that used copy of Cavafy translations at Murphy’s bookstore behind Old Town Hall, or learning fragment by fragment a bit more about art from the proprietor of Asia House, who also had an association with Weatherhill, then publishers in NYC. One of my labors was to clean out the huge furnace at Salem Hospital. Whenever I burned the trash the older guys warned of amputated limbs, & years before I cut through that myth. Two hours is a long time for images to hover. There’s Grampy Mike shoveling two buckets of coal for his furnace on Winthrop Street, & my other grandfather able to jump in & out of a wooden barrel without using his hands. Those barrels held leather skins for factories across from & at the foot of Proctor, & served as fodder for the annual bonfire atop Gallows Hill, until one year they toppled & rolled down toward spectators running for their lives, me among them. Later, I’d look in awe across from Pattie & David’s condo on Chestnut at Ernest Fenollosa’s former residence, hoping to put principles in his The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry to use: Poetry only does consciously what primitive races did unconsciously. There’s Bobby Leonard & I walking down Orange Street finding two dollar bills face up in the rain as talismans for the upcoming cross-country trip, & journey down to Mexico… http://www.killingfloorboston.com/2011/05/time-capsule-salem-came-back-to-me-before-i-came-back-to-salem.html