Pandemic of names

Robert anthony gibbons

the names 
I read every day
in the paper are like

ice trucks along seventh ave.
20 of them, 20 ice trucks:


the names 
in the paper 
between Union and Seventh 
behind Methodist Hospital

my body becomes an exile
like Potter’s Field
then yield to the anxiety
my body only, my body 
their bodies in ice trucks

from Italy
from Germany 
from Losaida 
from Africa
from Poland

their bodies, whole 
mortal body, whole 
congregations of them
libraries of them 
being burn, become urns
then turn to the  names
the names have frames

in the ground, all these 
names, in winter 
in summer, in the hospital

in the makeshift midnight 
in the medical Civil War 
and apartheid, who will dictate 

death, with all the human left
a fright from the universe
so I rehearse, the Songs of Solomon
chant from the Torah
or Leviticus, Deuteronomy

a mirth of pandemic, systemic
racism in the hood, in the hood
of neighbors, the mask and maskless

the rapt and the rapture
then the body becomes exile 
a stranded archipelago, then I 
peer from the window pane
full of blame, put to death

I , too will leave 
without a name.



no one, but the sunflower wilts like grease and there is
no peace until the sun says so, until the muses stay
until the ancestors grants me permission, until my mission

walks, until the shock of yesterday, and last year, not March
or May, nor July, but August, the fog or smoke of heat
reeks me like an oven, for  this has nothing to do with hope
nothing to do with job or unemployment, nothing with a mob
of anger, but my body belongs to Earth, belong to the sunrise,
to the sunflower that only increases with energy

yet, the little light fights to control, but souls are looking
for a miracle, in this blizzard of summer, is not over yet
do not find me, because I receive signs from the rainbow

from the undertow of hurricane, and the name is sunshine
like the sunflower and its mine to own and create, in time
will hide and wait, do not find me, but hide before another storm

before we join the sunflower in this dowry of happiness
call her blessed before death, because death is only
glamorous when you die to selfishness, then rise, walk

sing, then create, make beauty out of the mess, no one
but the sunflower will find me, find myself, stiled, leaned
left and decided to come back until now.


       the choke hold

we thought we would never see it again, the vintage shots we pull from
the back of the computer, oh how we glorify of our progress, our
disdain to give priority or affirmative action, we say, it no longer
exist, resist and only resist, mothers still teach their young men
of color to take their hands out of their pockets, not to be so quick
to talk back and make irreparable judgments, 

we thought we would never see it again, the choke hold, and what
is the color of crime, a line between upper and and downer, a show
for the out of towner, but the riot is not in Harlem and it is not all
clemency and pardon, the choke hold, a fool the eye, bag
of tricks, a mix of sinister and complex, and what is the color of crime
when there are two sides to the story, a tamper with the evidence

a killing that does not make sense, and if there are cold cases, there
are still faces that remain to weep, the soul will not keep in the mid of
gun fire, the liar has no respective person, and what is the color of crime
blue batons and black robes, red bandanas, or gray hoodies, multi
color sneakers walking across the subway tunnel, paste paper white
eating funnel cakes

and we thought we would never see it again, her blind justice, in front
to scale,her habeas corpus, her trial by jury, to be innocent without
impunity, and she sometimes stands alone, another brother with a long
chain gone.


                  true Kings raise new Kings
          “Even the greatest men are owls, scarecrows, by their time their fame has come.” (William Butler Yeats)

and I call to him, but no answer
the he that is he; I wanted to know
if he is still here, the one left of me 
on the playground and told me
to man-up; a fatherless in a father 
land, speaking into his death chamber
as his body becomes toxic, as he 
injects into me the same pain of being
fatherless, he that is he, puts his arms 
around in aesthetic distance, for me
not to remember that he is a failure

and me not to care, just his manliness
the basso continuo of his voice, the swagger
of his character, and he is rotten in this
family tree, his name and my name
becomes one; the sum of this symbiosis
of our relation; he did not answer, so

I will try again, maybe next year during
another father’s day; maybe his voice
will reappear from the gutter of Newark
maybe the school clothes he bought
will not become hand-me-down, my
brother could cope, but I could not
and they say you have too
and they say you did well

well, that is what they say, I know
it is hard on father’s day with all
the colorful ties and cologne
with the few items in which to choose
from the few positive images too
admire, I know it is hard with the margins
as low, but to court is big, hard being
in arrears, being DNA, a reality TV
being branded and slaughtered
as token as represented as example

I know it is hard coming home 
to reclaim your seed when you left
on the long road up eye ninety five
to another family that will claim him
will take all his possession upon 
his death; I should not care,because
I have the gift; the name and that
can not be taken away.

Robert Anthony Gibbons’s first collection, Close to the Tree, published by Three Rooms Press (2012). His chapbook, Flight, published by Poets Wear Prada (2019) You Almost Home, boy, published by Harlequin Creatures (2019) with Brooklyn based artist, Amy Williams, “Some Little Words” published 440 Gallery, Brooklyn (2021)

Follow Robert on Instagram for more poetry!

Life in Quarantine: Witnessing Global Pandemic is an initiative sponsored by the Poetic Media Lab and the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis at Stanford University.

Our Sponsors and Partners

Find Us!

Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA),
Stanford University

4th floor, Wallenberg Hall (bldg. 160)
450 Jane Stanford Way
Stanford, CA 94305
Stanford Mail Code: 2055