Elisa Gabbert


What I miss about childhood is awe – the filter of inexperience, without the further filter of inadequacy, shame. But shame, a friend told me, can be comforting. Adulthood is knowing that someone is watching, an increasing sensation of things being fixed. When I hear the song for the second time, what I like is its familiarity. It has not become more beautiful, nor have I gained access to its beauty.


Be thankful for adversity. Boethius said, “For in all adversity of fortune the worst sort of misery is to have been happy.” It’s easier to repeat mistakes than re-create successes, so think of your past self as a different person – each self, a different person. No great art comes from happiness, comfort, but discomfort is not enough. I write from suffering, not lust.


The last day of my 29th year, I woke up crying. “Despite myself.” Youth is wasted, full stop. We trade awe for regret, beauty for truth. I’ll remember forever how Brandon Shimoda threw his half-eaten ice cream cone in the trash: “This is boring.” Awe is nothing like shock. Time moves so fast I want it to move faster, make memories of you.

Elisa Gabbert is the author of The French Exit (Birds LLC, 2010) and The Self Unstable (forthcoming from Black Ocean in 2013). Her poems, prose, and collaborations have recently appeared in journals including Another Chicago Magazine, Conduit, Court Green, Salt Hill, and Sentence. She blogs at

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