Emily Gibson’s poem ‘Atone me Lightly’ features in Gutter Voices Issue 3, out now! Emily has been kind enough to share with us a unique insight with a line by line exclusive of the poem.
with divinity, unconscious
a sunday morning sat down for coffee
you in the house, me in the backyard
stale images of wantings, for future reference
I open the poem with an image of a pretty typical morning between my and my ex. We often made coffee, did this or that. Not unlike any other couple. This particular morning, however, was toward the end of things. We are not together, but we are apart. The images are stale. Yet, I am keeping them inside of my mind to reference both with nostalgia and understanding that things had been going sour long before I noticed they were.
taped in an ectoplasm, stored in an atrium
there’s no path there anymore
I keep these memories somewhere safe, but inaccessible. I understand that things will never revert to how they were and I can not continue trying to find paths back to that place.
take my hand and lead me to my grave
a piling heap of miscommunications
on which i will become one with the soil
This is a pretty straightforward reflection, I feel, about how I am as a communicator. I feel that the grave on which I lie, in general both romantically and socially, was self-dug by my own inability to communicate, and it is a place I have always felt comfortable and will always.
i did not say it right, oh dear god
to whom i will atone and to whom will
atone me lightly. full of garbage
This is, again, about my attempts to express myself that are often botched and wrong. I make a plea toward God, mostly telling them I am asking for forgiveness for my failures and asking them to go easy on me. The last line is just a small play on “full of grace.”
i can romanticize anything. with grace,
with fruit. i am one long boring afternoon
and into it i become one longer, affectionate
need and a check on your to-do list
Here, I am toying with my romanticism of the mundane. I’ve always been a person who is happy to sit with a friend, or a lover, and sip coffee and read books, be “boring,” yet together. I am also a deeply romantic person who can make anything beautiful if I try hard enough, which I think can be both a positive and a negative. I call myself a “check on a to-do list” referring to how, sometimes, people can be chores.
do not give me cause for alarm and i will not
lunge forward into the thickness of nuance
At the end of this reflection, I am just asking to be spared any anxiety about the state of my relationships with those close to me. This line is about how a small moment of awkwardness, or an unanswered text, or a strange night out can put me into a position of examining my interactions and relationships with everyone I know, trying to figure out if we are “cool” (usually after absolutely nothing has happened to make us not be that way).
So that’s it! This poem mostly exists in a period of reflection, loneliness and isolation, reminiscing but also trying to be real with myself and make a plan for how I can better serve those who love me and who I love. I enjoy it more than most other, sadder breakup poems I’ve written because I think it shows more personal growth and self-awareness than the others. Though it is vulnerable and begging for gentility, I think it’s also a little more ready to trudge forward and become something new.
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.
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