by Gustav Parker Hibbett
Gustav Parker Hibbett is a Black poet and essayist pursuing a PhD in Literary Practice at Trinity College Dublin. He holds a BA in English from Stanford University, is a drop-out of the University of Alabama Creative Writing MFA program, and is originally from New Mexico. His work also appears in Déraciné and phoebe, where his poem "Oil Painting of a Hand Holding a Taxidermied Bluebird" was a finalist for the 2020 Greg Grummer Poetry Prize.
first night of my semester in kyoto, forests of power cables, triangular stop signs, dinner at a restaurant off a small street off a main street off another street, fancy hotel paid for by the school, i folded myself into a bathtub. everyone had gone out for a drink somewhere, but i, tired, gathering myself, warm inside with the spirit of setting out alone, i stayed. i’d come a day early for the cheaper flight, kept myself in a b&b in osaka, gyuudon dinner, navigated up that day to meet everyone, japanese deft enough to get directions, chat, a couple times, arrive clothed in another language in a brand-new city like a winter hiker cloaked in snow, proud, at least, of having what it took to sail the world alone, not ready yet to talk and drink and shed the self i’d proved, mainly to myself, could handle what came, if it ever came to that, if i found myself straining in some ocean’s steady moonswept depths. i stayed. with a book i rolled myself, folded, in the only tub that had ever let me feel small, storm-drenched shivering out-of-nest-ling safe now in a loving palm. while my classmates drank and bonded, shared the stories of their cross-the-planet journeys, edamame and beer and the thrilling splash of cannonballing into something new, i stayed. candle in the window in the night in some imagined storm, i floated in the story of my book, phone-speaker music somehow cavernous like a film scene, i sampled in the delights of frozen time, suspended. the bathtub porcelain, clean in the way only hotel bathtubs can be, deep and new and safe and here i was, an icarus at the cusp of flying, ambition and the satisfaction of successful independence in my blood like melted gold, wet in the rain of the great big out there, chest full of assurance that i’d find the home i’d always wanted, make it somewhere out here in the waves. drunk on the setting-out, this brand new bath that had me held, my star’s light pocketed in night’s enormous bed, i filled myself to bursting with the knowledge that i’d find a person with a love like this some day.