TBAP – Swallowed – Mark Bibbins

I’m not sure how you feel about words. For me, each noun is an opportunity. It’s the act of taking a blank stage and placing a ______ front and center on it for the audience to see. An obelisk, a vase, a small door, a bicycle, a sword, a vial, a folding fan. I am less interested in whether the stage-hand drops it, or flings it. I am less concerned if they actor retrieves it, or snatches it. In short, nouns for me (not verbs), are everything.

So what to do with a poem about gluttony that opens with an escalator?

When I see an escalator I have to kiss
everyone on it, don’t you?

I don’t. Perhaps when I sit on a bus, or a subway car, or in a lecture. Perhaps in a dentist’s office. Perhaps in a row at the symphony. I can see everyone. I can see their lips and the look on their faces. I can be gluttonous about them. But an escalator?

The rest of the poem is a meditation on various forms of gluttony: war, food, profit, fame… things people eat up. And it’s good. The ending is very good. But Bibbins’s first step knocks me off. And I am caught on it, wondering about it, obsessed with it, trying different nouns with it.

I assume every poet has tried all reasonable possibilities for a line like this, and that a journal loved the poem, and that an anthology editor loved it, and so the error must be in my reasoning, or in the fact that I don’t want to kiss people on escalators.

ELEVATORS! That would have done it.
When I enter an elevator I have to kiss
everyone on it, don’t you?

I do.

And now I am more obsessed with Bibbins’s choices.



A day is not done, until it's filled with words.

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