Elisa Gabbert
I Know a Man

I know a man who crawled across

the side of a building and hung

by his hands. I know a man

who bit into a light bulb.


He had to hold still while

they picked the fine shards

from his tongue. I think of it now

when I read the word filament.


The word incandescent.

I wasn’t there. Yet think of it

so often that I was—I was there.

I took the pains inside my ears.


I heard the sound of glass.

I was there at the precipice,

and I heard the moss grow

for ten million years.

Found In Volume 53, No. 03
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Elisa Gabbert
About the Author

Elisa Gabbert is the author of seven collections of poetry, essays, and criticism: Any Person Is the Only Self (out from FSG in June 2024); Normal Distance (Soft Skull, 2022); The Unreality of Memory & Other Essays (FSG, 2020); The Word Pretty (Black Ocean, 2018); L’Heure Bleue, or the Judy Poems (Black Ocean, 2016); The Self Unstable (Black Ocean, 2013); and The French Exit (Birds LLC, 2010). The Unreality of Memory and The Word Pretty were both named a New York Times Editors’ Choice, and The Self Unstable was chosen by the New Yorker as one of the best books of 2013. She writes the On Poetry column for the New York Times, and her work has appeared in Harper’sThe Paris Review, The Believer, the New York Review of Books, A Public Space, The Yale Review, and many other venues.