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Robbie Gamble


A carpenter’s lexicon assembles at the edge:

Rafter tail. Bird’s mouth. Soffit. Fascia.

Everything has its cutoff.

Including your sense of security.

Sunbeam. Downpour. Wintry mix.

Home is a sentiment.

Shelter a privilege.

Consider the time and intention it takes to inhabit.

Dwell then. But a moment to abandon.

Shudder. Creak. Drip.

And nothing so liminal as icicles.

Phylum Chordata

A long weekend of thaw wiped exhausted remains of ice from around the pond’s perimeter. We clambered up onto a canted section of dock dragged up the beach last October, and squatted there on unsteady bipedal limbs, taking in sights and smells of early spring’s panorama through our progressive lenses and our poorly developed olfactory sensors. We were contemplating how many more weekends until we’d be breast stroking through soft inviting pond waters, when a beaver surged around the point, deftly towing a short length of sapling for some new engineering project in his frigid wake. He cast our huddled group a haughty side-eye as he passed, checking out the watchcaps and anoraks we still donned to fend off lingering chill, and I just knew he was thinking, candy-ass mammals! as he delivered an echoing thwack with his tail-plate, and submerged.


I’m shivering under a corner of this highway filling station as sleety curtains ripple past, watching gallons and dollars swell on the register of Pump #12, when a prompt appears on the screen: “Would you like to make a donation to St. Jude,” not specifying if the funds would go to a hospital or towards general research for cancer-riddled kids, just Saint Jude, that unremarkable apostle pushed to the periphery in most Last Supper tableaus, the chump who got tagged as Patron Saint of Lost Causes, which doesn’t bode well for the cancer kids, and I start thinking, all right Pump, what is your lost cause; are we talking about our current hydrocarbon-burning transportation system, or maybe capitalism in general, or even more broadly, is the Grand Experiment of Humanity coming to a close and this is the only sign I’ll get that the Rapture is at hand, and if I don’t drop a healthy tithe into this gas pump card reader right now, I’m not going to make it skyward; instead I’ll get hung up on the underside of this fuel island awning, my ankles tangled in a hose spewing gouts of economy grade octane all over, the fire-retardant foam nozzles kicking in too late to keep my Subaru from going up in an apocalyptic fireball; oh jeez Pump, can you give me a sec to collect my thoughts, but nothing effectively happens, just a slight shift in the wind pushing more sleet down my neck, and I don’t bother to request a receipt, just hop back in the car, buckle up, and pull out onto the highway toward home and my beloved.


Robbie Gamble (he/him) is the author of A Can of Pinto Beans (Lily Poetry Review Press, 2022). His poems have appeared in Atticus Review, Lunch Ticket, RHINO, Salamander, and The Sun. He worked for many years as a nurse practitioner caring for people caught in homelessness, and he now divides his time between Boston and Vermont.


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