Gabriel Gudding is the author of two books, A Defense of Poetry (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002) and Rhode Island Notebook (Dalkey Archive Press, 2007), a 436 page poem written in his car. His essays and poetry have appeared such venues as Harper's Magazine, Great American Prose Poems, New American Writing, The Nation. He serves on the Board of Directors for the internationalist magazine Mandorla: New Writing from the Americas/ Nueva Escritura de las Américas and teaches "experimental" poetry and poetics at Illinois State University.
from Rhode Island Notebook
And what, friends, is called a road? If there is, friends, an island, akin to a river, resembling a fence, used in the purpose of swiftly moving bodies and goods, a hallway lined in names, an aisle through counties, a duct in webs, a gangway to seeds, a traveling of beings, a river composed of islands, a place of simultaneous attraction and repulsion, a place for the finding of place, an area of exchange like unto an immense abacus. This, friends, is called a road.
And what, friends, is a car? If there is, friends, a metal corpuscle, a small room in which one cannot walk, a kind of peregrine room, a metal corpuscle battened to wheels, with an interior fitted with instruments used to control its movement, purposed to haul bodies from place to place with minimal exertion on the musculature of those bodies, being thus a small room on wheels that metallizes the human body, being a small mobilized building, a portable shack, conveying of hairdos, children, coins, drinks and fuels across the air and into the surface of hills and athwart old and dull and glittering rivers. This, friends, is called a car.
And what, friends, is called a daughter? If there is, friends, a little girl, impressionable, precious, complex, in need of love, desiring of security, warmth, kindness, giving of kindness, who is brave, who witnesses storms in awe and in fright, who enjoys big trees, has seen the fighting of her parents, owns a teddybear, goes with a teddybear, carries a white stuffed polar bear throughout her childhood, who is five, who is six, who is nine, who makes little camps in livingrooms, or in the backs of great cars, who is as an enfoldment of joy and whose life, despite her parents' efforts, is still surrounded by the causes of death, who is ten, who still finds grief, whose small hands are growing away, whose large eyes are growing away, whose funny way of talking is growing away. This, friends, is called a daughter.
And what, for us, is called a long-distance relationship? If there are friends, or any two people separated purposefully by a distance, whose history of interaction is characterized by misunderstanding, frequent fighting and interpersonal pain, such that the factors of their differences of age, culture, their styles of temperament and the scripts they were taught (in which they may seem imprisoned) have exercised them to a distance, of say eleven hundred miles, and who, despite compatibilities, and because of incompatibilities, find themselves frustrated yet willing to try. This, friends, is called a long-distance relationship.
And what, at last, is called a notebook? If, friends, there is a road through emptiness, a sea sewn to a spine, placed on tables, laps, or on the passenger seat of a car, used for palliation in a wash of disappearances, in haphazard recording of minutiae, road conditions, the recording of road condition and aggregates of thought that occur while driving on a condition, the invitation of emotion and radio, the notation of sign, a setting down of compendious or incidental note, in the grammars of back and forth going, the traveling from period to period, the coming from west to west, a sending between, a going in weather, whether between Illinois and Rhode Island, whether Normal and Providence, or between any several places normal, providential, for the purposes of trying to be happy, or of saving one's relationship, with one's estranged partner, or of seeing one's small daughter, during a separation, or of seeing her during a divorce, or of seeing her, during her swift youth after a divorce, or of driving to participate, even briefly, in the life of a sadder and less buoyant daughter, a little daughter, who is brave, who puts her chin up, who is kind, who only wishes to be happy, whom one cannot find a job near, for the recording of any elemental time of alienation, for the chronicling of any emotional pain, evoked by any unnatural distance, from a small daughter, one might love, with all one's understanding, such that, by a collection of scrawl, in an accrual of insight, some use be invited, to recollect painful things, that they may not become misery, and the refusal, to be steered by pain, or to recollect, and in fact insist, the living, with awareness, to joy, to recollect this way, for a daughter, when she is grown, or for oneself, or for anyone else, who may have found, to whatever degree, in this place of orphans, this endless humility, in our sorrow for lost homes. This, friends, is called a notebook.
La Z boy furniture of
ditches. You dead raccoons
you departed possums, you are
the further and minute furniture
of roadsides Why
did come here, little friends, to
explode? Panera, a loaf
of home. It looks like at
mid morning a very sad & old day
almost smoggy, like the palest
orange timber smoke has been
slathered behind the trees and
above the everywhere tan
of tree shadow I approach
the tree line at the end of the Midwest
around Youngstown. My daughter tells me yesterday
she's got all skinny—D had not
told me she'd lost weight from her illness,
the DIVORCE made official 13 days ago:
"Easter is born—crying aloud,
the green bush sways...." fr. Paterson
A fruzzed waterfall in the stones
has turned to slush but still grips
the brown rock wall a stubborn cold octopus
of ice, Airy ice partly hard water. Hi,
brown & dusty patina on
that dunnage on that
flatbed of that truck from