“Of the Lamp” by Gabrielle Bates

Gabrielle Bates


For Robin Williams

It’s not because he looks so much like my dad,
the same nose, the same mouth.

It’s not because when I was a child,
chicken pox scars new and burning on my brow,

his voice carried me like my ugliness
could only make me more precious, worth a wish,

two, or three. It’s not because the friendly boy
named Bear in my Philosophy class

jumped off the top of a parking deck, or because I stood drunk
on the kitchen table, in my bathrobe, and yawped

a terrible yawp, or because poetry is always a society
where the dead trade hands to touch with.

It’s not because he gave me light when he had none.
It’s not because I never expect sadness.

It’s not because he looks so much like my dad.

Poets Respond
August 18, 2014

[download audio]


Gabrielle Bates: “Robin Williams committed suicide on Monday, August 11, 2014. Despite having never met the man, this news brought me to tears on a public bus, experiencing a rib-aching loss. Looking around, I notice his death has inspired this sort of emotional response in many of us. My question is why? Why am I grieving Robin Williams—icon, character, and performer—with such private and intimate sorrow? Questions like this, questions dealing with death and grief, can never be answered in their entirety, of course. The process of inquiry, with all its flawed logic and tiny toy microscopes, is all that binds us, and all this poem offers.”

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