Mn poetry: Dobby Gibson’s ‘Beauty Supply’

Born in Minneapolis, Dobby Gibson is the author of three collections of poetry: Polar, Skirmish, and now It Becomes You. Graywolf Press writes this of his work:


Meditative, lyrical, aphoristic, and always served with wry wit, the poems in Dobby Gibson’s It Becomes You explore the divergent conditions by which we’re perpetually defined–the daily weather, the fluctuations of the Dow, the growth of a cancer cell, the politics of the day. What surrounds us becomes us, Gibson suggests, in a book that will ultimately become you.

Gibson will be celebrating the publication of his third collection tonight at Open Book in Minneapolis at 7pm. Here’s a sampling:

Beauty Supply

On the 21 bus this morning,

I noticed the Natural Braid & Beauty Supply

store on Lake Street

had a handmade sign in its front window

advertising Front Lace Wigs and Fittings by Relyndis.

I love Relyndis for daring to believe

that beauty can be supplied,

for believing in everything the used car dealers

farther down Lake have given up on,

beginning with the silver balloons and streamers

that disappeared once the economy went south.

Above the beauty supply store

there’s a billboard for the Washburn-McCreary Funeral Home

advertising Quality and Value Cremation Services,

three white and white-haired men

in matching gold ties as shiny as the handles

of the three caskets I’ve lifted in my life.

There’s Hymie’s Records, where I found the Buck Owens LP

I’m unashamed to admit

I love listening to over and over

at least partly because it smells of an oddly comforting

mildew from a stranger’s basement.

I was born on this street, about a mile from here,

and can still take it almost all the way to the house

where my parents live,

just beyond Minnehaha Creek,

my beautiful dad in his beautiful basement

listening to the TV at a volume that would scare a soldier.

On Lake Street, there’s the station

where I catch the downtown train

to use these words I love so much

for purposes I occasionally don’t.

I never thought I’d live here.

The other day, when I drove Tony down Lake Street

and pointed to the hospital where I was born,

he said, “Your life is one of shocking continuity,”

and I wondered whether I was being given

a compliment or a warning.

I wonder if it was 24 degrees

on the day I was born, as it is today,

and if the light sank like it is now,

the traffic vanishing after dinner.

I wonder if, in another 40 years,

my wife and I, and my daughter, and Relyndis,

and a half million other people like us

will still flush our toilets

into the river one last time before bed

as a new set of old used cars sleeps unsold on Lake Street,

and whether there will be another version

of the man with a limp

to shuffle out after the snow falls

to gently brush them off.

- Dobby Gibson. “Beauty Supply,” from It Becomes You.

Copyright © 2013 by Dobby Gibson.

Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

10:56AM Update: Colin Kloecker at Works Progress sent me this recent video profile of Dobby Gibson, which includes him reading ‘Beauty Supply’ while riding the 21A. Enjoy!