Author: Wil Gibson

Wil Gibson lives in Maine. He's had collections published with Moon Pie Press, Sargent Press, and Red Bench Press.

Portrait #12


It is always harvest time in Northern Illinois. Northern Illinois has an eye to the autumn all year long. All year long the summer is met with worry. With worry comes the rain. The rain can overstay it’s welcome. It’s welcome in the spring. I have always been the rain.


My scars keep strangers at arm’s length, move mothers and children closer together in public. My scars are powerful. I was powerless when I got them. My scars appreciate in value. They were free. They are priceless.


My third wife took everything but the scars. She was too generous to take them with her. My second wife gave me everything she had. I gave her a child and an excuse.
I was too selfish to burden myself with them. My first wife passed away fifteen years after we divorced. She was kind enough to let me move on before she died.


When I was asked if I had ever been to jail, I tensed tight at the idea of honesty. The look my hesitance caused showed my answer was irrelevant. A new jury pit suddenly popped up in front of me. I was my own bailiff. The cuffs closed slow around my wrists. I could hear the click as clearly as the question. I had been judged as harshly as possible. I shrugged my shoulders and smirked, my finest attempt at being smug, and I never answered. I am ashamed that I was silent. I am always ashamed when I am silent.


I let the chaos breathe for me some days. Chaos has perfect, happy lungs. They rise and fall on a controlled regular basis. Order is essential to proper breathing. Chaos delivers breath despite itself. My lungs are chaos.

If my heart skips a few lubs or dubs, no one notices. I am the only one who listens. Doctors say my health is my fault. It is. My heart has only it’s best by me and I have broken it or stopped it too many times to count. My heart beats chaos.

My brain has no regulation, is a free spirited teenager. Naive and swears to know enough to get by. When the real world floods chemtrails across my frontal lobe, I lose time. I forget myself. I am all shook and sway and fall without music or prayer. I am uncontrolled bladders and stiff armed nightmares and record skips. Epilepsy is the devil in a padded room. The sheets strangle dreams, pack twitches behind eyelids half open.

My brain breeds chaos. My body is chaos. My motorcycle boot spine is an unwatched documentary. These stories are written with skin. They fade, but never go blank.

Life Lesson 1280 or
“The Five Things I Learned in an Oklahoma Bar Fight on my 22nd Birthday”

When the glass breaks over your head,
notice the flash of white that takes over the whole world.
The blood will seem like an afterthought,
the afterbirth to your newborn concussion.
Stand up, leave the bar in a bolt of confusion while
the other patrons turn spirits into ghosts.

Never be anywhere with so much hate.

When you get outside, light a KOOL, and smile.
Do not get angry when the tears streak down your face,
curl off your top lip, and snuff out the cigarette mid drag.
When you wipe the tears away and realize it is blood,
thank the cigarette for the warning and the cancer, throw it on the ground.

Never smoke anything laced in blood.

When you notice the police officer
noticing you fall towards your truck,
show him your keys, unlock the door,
show him your keys again, throw the keys
to the other side of the parking lot,
climb into the cab of your truck,
wave to the police officer,
lock the door,
lay down and sleep until sunrise.
When the sunrise does not provide you with sobriety,
go back to sleep.
Sleep until noon.

Never drive while you are bleeding.

When noon re-wakes you and you notice you are still bleeding,
mumble in a way that scares the birds while you look for your keys.
When you find them, smile for the little victory.
Stumble to the hospital, while pedestrians only
gasp at the sight of you, and do nothing to help.

Never go to the hospital unless you have to stumble to get there.

If the woman behind the emergency room desk
does not seem to care about your bleeding head,
or your broken heart,
withhold your disappointment.
Do not blame her,
simply pass out in a sweaty, bloody heap of self-righteousness.
That will show her.

When you wake up alone in a hospital bed
examine the scenarios that could have
led you to a less stressful evening.

Always rethink your life when you wake up alone in a hospital bed.


The blood stains on the barn walls are too scary
to put a third grade halloween party metaphor on.
Dried blood turns dingy yellow first,
then burnt orange, then dark brown.

The amount of churches per state and meth labs per state
have the same regional spike in number.
The closer you live to the center of the Bible Belt
the bigger you think it is.
The closer you live to the center of the Meth Belt
the smaller you think it is.
“Same difference” works as an explanation of
ignorance and acceptance.
‘Round here, a family bible page bent where hills hide behind
the feeling flatlanders find comfort in.
Corn stalks talk swift whispers.
Tassels whiplash, intertwine in an anxious soft conversation.
They have conspiracy theories about combines and farmers
and anhydrous ammonia fumes from across the field.
They won’t talk much to outsiders.
Soybean dust storms swirl,
then fall like a fine snow.
The dry precipitation clogs noses and throats for miles and hours.
It will eventually feed millions.

For now, we all choke.