Features, Poems

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc: “On Leaving Home”

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc’s “On Leaving Home” appears in Poetry Northwest Fall-Winter 2007-08 v2.n2. The poem focuses on departures and those who are left behind. According to Le-Blanc, ” I left Chicago at 18 and somehow knew that I would never be back for any length of time. I wanted to capture something—who knows what—about that experience.

“The way into the first version of this poem appeared when I looked up the etymology of ‘matter’ and found that it came from the roots for mother and the inner wood of a tree. Matter, mother, timber. I’m fascinated at how those words might be related, and their sounds became the spine of this poem. Trying to riff off of their sounds and meanings was how it got written.

“I did puzzle over the final stanza for quite some time. I Couldn’t find a way out of the odd little box of sound and sense that I’d made. Stumbling upon the phrase ‘forget the fretted agate’ helped. It seemed to echo some of the previous sounds while also stretching them in a new direction. ”

On Leaving Home

We all need exile once
in a while: actual
or inner, no matter.

We need to be far
from what matters, what-
ever is the matter.

To be clear, the former
and the latter have to do
with the mother and the timber

from which we’re made. I,
for one, have elms—for
swinging, for running under—

at my center, meaning
also Dutch Elm and canker.
As for the mother, she did

what she could and did
despite the weather:
the grey light, the cloud cover.

I was a foreigner
touring the Land of Fine
at first; only later

was it actual: new
cities, new coasts. Nowhere,
of course, was I able

to forget the fretted agate
clouds and anvil shapes
of matter, mother and weather.

Gibson Fey-LaBlanc‘s poems have appeared in Agni, The New Republic, and Verse Daily. Awarded the Bellevue Literary Review’s poetry prize for 2006, he currently helps direct The Telling Room, a community writing program in Portland, Maine.

“On Leaving Home” appears exclusively in the Fall-Winter 2007-08 v2.n2 Issue of Poetry Northwest.