Author’s Insight: Emily Gibson on Heartbreak and Atonement

Emily Gibson’s poem ‘Atone me Lightly’ features in Gutter Voices Issue 3, out now! Emily has been kind enough to share with us an insight into the poem and a behind the scenes look at her headspace while writing it.


At its core, “Atone Me Lightly” is a breakup poem. But it’s not exactly a breakup poem.

For context: this year, before the entire world changed, I went through a breakup of my first relationship and my first real, intense love that lasted multiple years and felt a bit like skydiving all the time. (Ah!!) This was promptly followed by three months of isolation, completely alone in my house with only my dog for company. I haven’t been through a breakup before, so I’m not sure what the guidebook is for grief, but I don’t think being socially and emotionally cut off is the ideal state of being post-cision. 

This poem was the result of a breakup, but the reason I say it is and isn’t about that is because it is mostly about myself. It’s about existing in that hazy space where something that was so solid, so grounding for you slowly shriveled and became nothing and now you have to fill that empty space with something new. I think breakups are a time that we reflect, in general, about who we are not only as a partner but also as a friend and person. For me, this poem was looking inward at myself on a grander scale and trying to navigate that person. 

I wove Catholic/ religious imagery into the poem because religion isn’t something I have necessarily been raised with. I like the idea of it, but have always been neglectful and shitty in the practice. What I do like, however, is the Christian ideal that genuinely wanting forgiveness begets receiving it (when deserved). I think it is comforting to believe that if you atone for your wrongdoings, if you truly look inward and feel that discomfort and change, you can be forgiven by God or by whoever else. (This, of course, like all things is nuanced and the context with which I’m applying this doesn’t apply to bigotry or abuse, in my opinion). 

Looking inward at a failed relationship, frankly, sucks. It doesn’t only feel like a failure but it also feels like a waste. For me, however, it has also meant an opportunity to metaphorically scrub myself clean and realize ways I can and should be a better partner, and person.

Emily is a writer living in Austin, Texas. Her work mostly exists scrawled in notebooks or self-published in chapbooks, but you can find it online in tenderness lit, be about it zine and seafoam magazine. You can also find her on twitter at @why__lime

Her poem ‘Atone Me Lightly’ can be found in Issue 3 of Gutter Voices along with a lot of other great poetry and fiction. You can read Issue 3 here.

Did you enjoy Emily’s poem and post? If you’d like to support writers and new voices like Emily, why not check out our Patreon.

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