Two poems by Reginald Gibbons

andrew reilly bham
Photo by Andrew Reilly (details of mural, Third Avenue North; Birmingham, AL)

 Ares, the God of Blades

He’s divine and he is
rampant—because some young
men love him until he

destroys them, fast or as
he wishes, and because
some love him all the more

after they have survived
him, even if they hate
him. Some fear him, avoid

his smell (or at least try
to), others adore him
because he adores them

to death. In their midst, he
stretches his wolf-back, he
yawns and shows his canines,

he howls and laughs, he flies,
he takes blood-muddy paths,
leaps from ramparts, weaves with-

out words the fates of his
toy men—all his foes and
especially his friends.

Yet he too lays down his
silver-hilted sword with
godly edges that can

slice one human hair length-
wise, can cleave clean in two
a head or whole body,

he lays down his hawking
spear with heavy ash-wood
haft, he eases his heart

in sleep… except when in
sleep, too, he’s still heaving
the spears thrown by warriors

into warriors—flung with young
hands, arms, shoulders, leaping
legs, and his force in their

bodies. Umh!! It—the it
that’s bright red—does not
spatter him or matter

to him as he blades the
future off this one and
that one. He dreams of what

he is meant to do and
does. He wakes to do it.


Pardon Me

Indulge me. Exempt me
from penalty or penance
for my offense. Give me
remission of my crimes.
Permit me and in fact
a number of others
to attend the Festival
of Pardons that You, my
Tyrant, could yourself convene.
We do not have nothing
to give in return. We have
yielded some service to
you, have we not? We can
play-act penances and
grimacing pilgrimages
for our—your—numberless
illegalities and
assaults, misfeasances
and felonies, unlawful
avoidances and secret
deals and dealings in secrets.
Some persons may have been hurt,
some even terminated
with extreme prejudice,
as we used to say. This
is what you hinted we should
do and we should urge among
your followers, your pals; this
is what your money-men made
possible for you and what
they too, in their way, can
nail you for. So with heartfelt,
sincere reminders of
our loyalty to how you
did for us and we did
for you, and with solemn blah
and with this is for real and
with no shit we’re serious,
we solicit your huge inked
signature on what may
not have been foreseen in
the Constitution of this
country. Some might call what
we’ve done an unwarranted
abuse, a grave legal
delinquency, but you
are the law, and you have your
lawyers, and what you do
with all that cannot be that
wrong. Give me remission
of (what lying officials
or some highly suspect
judges may call) my crimes.
Exempt me from penalty
or penance for my offense—
not against you, but… you know.
Pardon me.




Reginald Gibbons has published ten books of poems, including Creatures of a Day, a Finalist for the National Book Award, and most recently Last Lake (Univ. of Chicago Press 2016).  His recent book of very short fiction is An Orchard in the Street (BOA Editions 2017).  He has translated Mexican, Spanish, and ancient Greek poetry, and teaches at Northwestern University in the new Litowitz Graduate Creative Writing Program (MFA+MA).  He will also be on the faculty of the winter MFA residency at Warren Wilson College in January 2019.