About the Poems
by Gary L. McDowell
“Gymnosperm,” “Anatomy of a Comet,” and “Bones Hurt When They Have Flesh On Them”
These three poems are part of a series. The body is my obsession. I think constantly about its shape, its uses, its needs, and its wants. The mind develops language, but as I’ve been told recently, “any poem composed by hand is written by the body.”
I initially wanted each of the poems in the series to act as a body part or system (hips, lungs, ribcage, head, larynx, eyes) through which the physical and aural collision of cells – form – and energy – language – would combine to create at once the body whole. Throughout the sequence, bees, water, clay, comets, and bird nests act as barriers to the poet’s ability to experience anything singularly with the body. The mind is always present. The series is still searching for the answer. Other than the attempt at creating body, nothing fully recognized has yet been accomplished; and therefore, each poem is itself the birth, the birth of possibility in the body being finally self-reliant.
As the dedication says, this poem is for Amy. I could talk about how Amy mentored me while I was at NIU, or I could talk about how without her I may never have found my life in poetry, or I could even talk about how the friendship I developed with Amy will be one I’ll carry with me the rest of my life, but I’d rather just let the poem speak for me.
My step-father, Jim, passed away when I was sixteen. He had had terminal brain cancer for three years. In my thirteenth year, just before he was diagnosed, we took a family cruise to the Bahamas. While there, Jim promised me we would snorkel in the clear blue waters of the tropical Atlantic. The one attempt we made at snorkeling was aborted due to bad weather. After that day, Jim spent the rest of the trip too ill to try again.