hannah gamble

My house disgusted me, so I slept in a tent.
My tent disgusted me, so I slept in the grass. The grass disgusted me,
so I slept in my body, which I strung like a hammock from two ropes.
My body disgusted me, so I carved myself out of it.

My use of knives disgusted me because it was an act of violence.
My weakness disgusted me because “Hannah” means “hammer.”
The meaning of my name disgusted me because I’d rather be known
as beautiful. My vanity disgusted me because I am a scholar.

My scholarship disgusted me because knowledge is empty.
My emptiness disgusted me because I wanted to be whole.
My wholeness would have disgusted me because to be whole
is to be smug. Still, I tried to understand wholeness

as the inclusiveness of all activities: I walked out into the yard,
trying to vomit and drink milk simultaneously. I tried to sleep
while smoking a cigar. I have enough regrets to crack all the plumbing.
I’m whole only in that I’ve built my person from every thought I’ve ever loved.

— 

from Your Invitation to a Modest Breakfast by Hannah Gamble

http://www.fenceportal.org/?page_id=4395

Biscuit

When I saw her at the bar
it was already almost two.

I thought lucky hours, and sidled
up. She looked like the kind of girl
who would begin to sneeze mid-orgasm,
like when a rat is suddenly adorable

bringing his gnarled pink foot up
to scratch a dewy ear.

I wanted to draw her baby hair
up by the silky handful

to see how thick her neck was,
like I’d be able to get a wad

in my mouth and carry her
like a pup. Her clothing was like a family

assembled by taking one orphan
from each continent. She seemed

like a philanthropist, or a hoarder,
or a biscuit unbuttered. There’s something stupid

about a biscuit. Also something
very gentle. The lights came on

in the bar and the music went away
completely. She had noticed me

looking at her, but her expression
was no different than it had been before,

when she was poking one large
finger into a bowl of salted nuts,

only the slightest hint of dismay
when the salt in the bowl

let her know she had
cut it.


Hannah Gamble

–Alice Fulton, Poetry, October 2013

Read the rest of “You Own It” by Alice Fulton, which first appeared in our October 2013 issue–published online today. The October issue is Don Share’s first as editor. It features first appearances by Heather Christle, CA Conrad, Hannah Gamble and Nate Marshall; a portfolio of previously unpublished letters from Robert Creeley; and essays from Peter Quartermain and Christina Davis, as well as Don Share’s own message to readers, in which he explains his approach as editor.

"Leisure, Hannah, Does Not Agree with You (2)," Hannah Gamble

      —After Catullus

My house disgusted me, so I slept in a tent.
My tent disgusted me, so I slept in the grass. The grass disgusted me,
so I slept in my body, which I strung like a hammock from two ropes.
My body disgusted me, so I carved myself out of it.

My use of knives disgusted me because it was an act of violence.
My weakness disgusted me because “Hannah” means “hammer.”
The meaning of my name disgusted me because I’d rather be known
as beautiful. My vanity disgusted me because I am a scholar.

My scholarship disgusted me because knowledge is empty.
My emptiness disgusted me because I wanted to be whole.
My wholeness would have disgusted me because to be whole
is to be smug. Still, I tried to understand wholeness

as the inclusiveness of all activities: I walked out into the yard,
trying to vomit and drink milk simultaneously. I tried to sleep
while smoking a cigar. I have enough regrets to crack all the plumbing.
I’m whole only in that I’ve built my person from every thought I’ve ever loved.

The hands smelled like exodus.
The hands were the law.

One hand grew older, and the other
hand younger.

They said, fairly often,
We’d like to try that again.

Both were restless
and wanted rest.

One hand said, I will go where you go,
while the other hand continued
on alone.
—  Hannah Gamble, from It Was Alive, Though Differently
Waiting Up

you have a cut above your right eye 
where have you been

while you were gone none of our appliances 
would work for me

none of the mirrors would talk 
to me, either

I looked out the window and saw a tree 
doubled over as if

its sap had suddenly curdled and I 
was worried

if these sparse woods, if these faint vines 
fall apart, isn’t it because I’m

losing my hair, because I’m tearing my nails
away from my hands and you

came home tonight with a cut 
and buttons missing

who is sending us this message 
the paperboy

no longer comes to the house, maybe his bicycle 
has rusted, maybe

a cancer took both of his legs 
why did you

come home tonight if you aren't 
ready to tell me

HANNAH GAMBLE
from Your Invitation to a Modest Breakfast, Fence Books, 2012. 

All my life I felt a heavy hand
pushing some thoughts out
through the plushy curtains
of this or that opera house
and holding other thoughts back
with a shepherd’s crook and a firm
hand, or a firm look that says
Quiet. Still, I was grateful
that I had decided some thoughts
are worth the water and snackpacks
it takes to keep them alive.
—  Hannah Gamble, “How Early to Wake,” published in Drunken Boat

Your Invitation to a Modest Breakfast

It’s too cold to smoke outside, but if you come over,
I’ll keep my hands to myself, or won’t I.
I would like to tell you about the wall eaten up 

by the climbing plant—it was so beautiful.
Various things have been happening to me,
all of them sexual. The man on the bus

took off his pants so I could see him better.
|Another man said, “Ignore him darlin’.
Just sit on my lap.” But I’m not one of those 

who’s hungriest in the morning,
unlike the man at the bakery
who eats egg after egg after egg. 

Listen. Come over: the cold has already eaten
the summer. I need another pair of ears:
from the kitchen I can’t tell if I’m hearing wind chimes 

or some gray woman with failing arms
dropping a pan full of onions and potatoes.
                                    This morning I need four hands— 

two to wash the greens, one to lift a teakettle,
one to pour the milk. This morning, one little mouth
will not do. We could play a game 

where we crouch on the tiles, two yellow dogs
drinking coffee from bowls. We could play a game
where we let the breakfast burn.

Outside there’s a world where every love scene
begins with a man in a doorway;
he walks over to the woman and says “Open your mouth.”

 

Hannah Gamble
 from Your Invitation to a Modest Breakfast, Fence Books. 2012 

It’s too cold to smoke outside, but if you come over,
I’ll keep my hands to myself, or won’t I.
I would like to tell you about the wall eaten up

by the climbing plant—it was so beautiful.
Various things have been happening to me,
all of them sexual. The man on the bus

took off his pants so I could see him better.
Another man said, “Ignore him darlin’.
Just sit on my lap.” But I’m not one of those

who’s hungriest in the morning,
unlike the man at the bakery
who eats egg after egg after egg.

Listen. Come over: the cold has already eaten
the summer. I need another pair of ears:
from the kitchen I can’t tell if I’m hearing wind chimes

or some gray woman with failing arms
dropping a pan full of onions and potatoes.
This morning I need four hands—

two to wash the greens, one to lift a teakettle,
one to pour the milk. This morning, one little mouth
will not do. We could play a game

where we crouch on the tiles, two yellow dogs
drinking coffee from bowls. We could play a game
where we let the breakfast burn.

Outside there’s a world where every love scene
begins with a man in a doorway;
he walks over to the woman and says ‘Open your mouth.’
—  “Your Invitation to a Modest Breakfast,” Hannah Gamble

I’m really pleased to share the news today that I’ve received a 2014 Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship. Hannah Gamble, Ocean Vuong, Danez Smith, and Solmaz Sharif have also received fellowships. More here.

But what I’m really excited about is the diversity of perspective, experience, origin(s), aesthetic, education(s), and recognition(s) represented by this list.

I’m happy to be part of a “diverse” list of winners for a fellowship not mark(et)ed as a “diversity fellowship.”

I’m happy when I see women achieve. 

I’m happy when recognition is given to stories from outside the dominant narrative.

I love the work of these poets. It’s 90 degrees in Brooklyn right now, and only getting hotter. I’m really happy to be here. I’m going to go read some poetry.

Kathy.

“Are you doing anything interesting or out of the ordinary this year?”

“Well, I am moving to Istanbul in six months!”

“What will you be doing there?”

“Serving the Church, teaching English, and building relationships with the people I meet.”

“What motivated you towards this decision?”

“The desire to see the nations worship God has been on my heart for a few years. I prayed for a ministry partner and a team to serve with. God answered both of those prayers and is sending me to Turkey.”

Photo by Hannah Gamble Photography.

Watching television

A Prayer for Mirta
by Hannah Gamble

A prayer for Mirta
               who buys Church’s Chicken for dinner
and thus shows she has given up on life.

A prayer for Mirta who believes
               that I am a thief
               and sets her Tupperware on the table
to count them.

               In all of Mirta’s stories,
                             life is unkind
               and television is horrible.

               In all of Mirta’s stories,
                             someone denies her basic worth,
               and she considers
                             making a counterpoint.

Beside a bureau of porcelain eggs,
               Mirta is watching television,
and I am watching Mirta.

Mirta whose husband
beat her teeth into a row of pomegranate seeds.

Mirta alone on a Saturday.

Mirta whose children prefer their father.

Goddamn it.

For most of us, death is the first time
               our friends will lift us up
and carry us on their shoulders.

Most People Would Rather Not Know

Most people would rather not,
but I indulge, every few weeks,
the thought of it. Sometimes

the oily smell of an evening flower appears
and hangs in the air, a slightly browner spot.

I think most people had it wrong when they said
forget about it and find a fresh patch
of  grass to lie down in.

There are prayers, though,
about that kind of peace.

I have to admit, sometimes
I want nothing more than to be lying on the bottom
of an unimpressive river.

I can watch all the leaves and sticks skim over my head,
and no one will bother me
because they’re swimming
in the more impressive rivers.

The water’s not too cold. It doesn’t feel
like being dead.

It also doesn’t feel like being old
or fetal.

I came to the humble water to lie down.
I did what I set out to do.
Now I don’t have to tell you
anything more about it.

Hannah Gamble POETRY October 2013