Tag Archives: Grace Gilbert

11.1 | Post Script

Grace (Ge) Gilbert

I’m Going To Free Myself from the Shackles of Other People’s Expectations of Me

I write in the dark after all night dancing at the disco. It’s with friends, really, that I don’t want to bash my head against the constant rotating mill of needed income and adulthood and nice pleated trousers.

I rip the adhesive bra from Amazon off of my nipples and think, Thank god.

It leaves a crust and a feeling of inadequacy—they’ve always been too far apart, and it takes the strength of an industrial ropes course carabiner to bring them together in any sort of way that screams Sex or money.

I’m writing now because Jared was high (off half an edible) at a bar in the absolute gayborhood of Philadelphia and said grace, of anyone else—I believe the most in you. It made me sweat in the kindness sort of way, when I somehow can’t believe someone would be genuine to me and not just out of convenience or marijuana or transactional flattery. We went out to smoke a cigarette and I laughed when Jared crawled all the way up the stairs. Later we found a black Bic lighter on the sidewalk after ours ran out of juice and he said, You know it might be hard at first but then it will be just fine.

It’s the shirts with preset boobs that really bother me because I have enough awareness about roles I can and cannot fill.

I’ve had about twenty job interviews that haven’t gone anywhere and a lot of nodding that makes me embarrassed about who I really am as a person. Dancing takes about thirteen minutes to get into and in those thirteen minutes I feel as if I’m slowly choking and everyone else can drink water except for me.

I bought the Bug at twenty-one right after the worst day of my life which was college graduation.

I had just left an abusive situationship (with a woman, no less, so more difficult to explain to family) lost all our mutual friends and spent about twenty-four hours in the psych ward that made me familiar with every local homeless person in Rochester NY and there are quite a few.

My father took me to the dealership in a crude attempt at bonding.

We looked at cars he liked and I hated everything but the rogue gray Bug and he said are you sure ok you’re an adult I guess it’s your money.

It had 10,000 miles and was previously owned by a woman with Alzheimer’s who lived in rural New York.

When she forgot how to drive her husband would back it in and out of the driveway for five years until she finally forgot how to live.

They told me this as I signed the extended warranty paper not knowing what extended warranty meant and neither did my father. My first time alone in the car, I found a Peter Paul and Mary CD still left in the disc player.

Now at the end of an era the engine keeps coming up busted and I’m already mourning the time I’ve had freedom, peter paul mary, and a loan from the Key Bank.

It’s an anointed prison, ownership, and you just don’t know when you get to keep anything and when it’ll all just end.

It comes with no surprise that the thing I learned the most from my father is to pretend I know something when I don’t.

Sitting in the dealership he pretended to know cars. He wore a big trench coat and tried to match the sleazy newsboy tone of the dealer who saw right through him and I didn’t have the chops to critique his acting.

Instead I daisy-chained a list of things I’d accomplished rattling it all off to my father.

It was one of those things where I hated every word I said as I said it and the fluorescence of it all didn’t help. We stirred our Styrofoam cup black coffees with black stirrers that were the world’s most ineffective straws and it was silent except for the cars lights and expectation which all bothered me.

I’m proud of you, he said awkwardly, couldn’t be prouder, and I felt embarrassed that I’d seen him about three times in all of college and he felt the need to reassure me and I felt the need to need it.

And so after years of trying not to disappoint your family it’s in a boyfriend’s parents’ basement where you feel you have to confront yourself against a quilt that isn’t yours.

Laying dizzy tits out in a room with nothing familiar after passing twelve billboards that scream When you die you WILL meet god it gets hard to distinguish the carpet and family photos and stuffed bunnies from the guts inside your body.

Without the added distinction of expectation and disappointment you sip your water quietly and feel like nothing at all and a credit score thinking alas.

There is a Reformation dress and a dream for all of us.

Where is the outline of this person you keep trying to fill?

grace (ge) gilbert is a hybrid poet, essayist, and collage worker based in Brooklyn. They received their MFA in poetry from the University of Pittsburgh in 2022, and are a SUNY Geneseo alum. They are the author of the closeted diaries, an essay chapbook from Porkbelly Press (2022), and NOTIFICATIONS IN THE DARK, a poetry chapbook from Antenna Books (2023). They were the MCLA Under 27 Writer-in-Residence Fellow at Mass MoCA and have received support from City of Asylum as an emerging poet laureate of Allegheny County and from the Bread Loaf. Writers’ Conference. Their work can be found in the Indiana Review, Ninth Letter, the Offing, the Adroit Journal, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Diode, TYPO, ANMLY, and elsewhere. They currently teach hybrid collage and nonfiction courses at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts.

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Grace Gilbert


First visit, during the county fair

after Anne Sexton

it is June.

i am tired

of being strong.

i place wet wild daisies

on stone, a weary offering.

some petals obstruct your name.

of all the sad new facts here,

i would much rather admit

the daisies.

it is beginning to rain,

a slow one, tapping on the canopy above

before it begins to dimple

this bleak neighborhood,

& i lie in the dirt next to you

one last time,

allowing it.

i know the injury

of acknowledging death

in back of every i love you—

accepting what falls before it does,

but goodbye

is always hovering like this,

a red balloon tied

to a wrist.


Grace Gilbert is currently studying Childhood/Special Education and English (Creative Writing) at SUNY Geneseo. Grace is a finalist in Sweet Literary Magazine’s 2018 poetry contest, and her work can or will be found in Anomaly Literary Journal, Twyckenham Notes, Maudlin House, Pretty Owl Poetry, Gandy Dancer, Glass Mountain, and other publications. She hopes to pursue an MFA in poetry.

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Grace Gilbert

on waking at 3 a.m.

in this dreadful pattern of insomnia

& wondering if i could love you,

each unflinching minute

hums thick like a pulse—

a torrent of frantic wings beating

against the soundless expanse

of an unremarkable bedroom; somewhere,

where my mind houses our sleeping bodies

and little else. i envision our love

as that small breath

i always draw at the start of a dream,

sharp and secretive,

a tiresomely private mention

of a world you’ll never visit.

there is a cruel diligence

to keeping you here,

listless and expectant,

when my love has eroded to nothing

but some unearthed relic

of need.


Grace Gilbert is currently studying Childhood/Special Education and English (Creative Writing) at SUNY Geneseo. Grace is a finalist in Sweet Literary Magazine’s 2018 poetry contest, and her work can or will be found in Anomaly Literary Journal, Twyckenham Notes, Maudlin House, Pretty Owl Poetry, Gandy Dancer, Glass Mountain, and other publications. She hopes to pursue an MFA in poetry.

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Grace Gilbert

eastern meadowlark, thirty-ninth mile of morning

i tire of the pounding. the

fogged windows, incessant

static of sleeves and stations,

the  hum  hum    hum

the rusted engine of a thing and of me.

to the left, i notice

dappled auburn under-

bellies among dirt clods & dry

grasses, gaping:

inserting  beaks into  soil,

sweet lazy whistles

from splintering  wood beams,

gentle hymns  for sunup

pull over. i rest

a moment after cracking the door,

watch the grassland

fledglings learn to nestle in

dips &  hollows

of the wintered stubble

field. when engine revs

  they flit & swoop, chaos

shrouded in smog

while i softly tap

  pinkies against

the wheel

At the viaduct, the Hudson in March, fourteen days since he fell under

I watch

    his Mama


a    lone




the   swollen



Grace Gilbert is currently studying creative writing and childhood education at SUNY Geneseo. Her hobbies include eating Manchego cheese, daydreaming about Sir Elton John, and whispering the word gazebo to herself until she dissociates from the English language.

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Grace Gilbert


The week my dad moved out, our basement flooded. All of our American Girl Dolls and birth certificates floated around like pathetic canoes navigating the filthy, stale rainwater that had swallowed up our childhood. Holly and I, playing rescue, hastily put on Mommy’s squeaky yellow rain boots and waded through the musky stench that turned our playroom into a gas chamber, attempting to liberate our favorite toys. Upstairs, stifled by the dense basement door, I heard Mommy talking on the phone with the insurance company, yelling between sobs. That night, pajama-clad Miranda curled up on the tattered armchair, little wrinkled thumb in her mouth, and watched reruns of The Berenstain Bears while Holly and I spread all of her waterlogged stuffed animals in front of the fan like a makeshift morgue. Mommy ran frantically between rooms, packing away toiletries, baby shoes, and tuna sandwiches in an Aldi tote bag.

The following afternoon, Mommy drove our clunky van for four hours, no gas station stops, and settled on Niagara Falls as our destination, the closest we could get to fleeing the country without the hassle of explaining that the basement ate our paperwork. I sat on the passenger side and kicked my unlaced Keds back and forth in the space behind the empty seat in front of me.

“Mommy, who is going to take us trick-or-treating this year?” I whined as I caught sight of a cheesy Halloween store beneath the bustling overpass. My dad wore the same dingy soccer ball mask and black windbreaker every Halloween for the eight years I’d been alive, walking the three of us up and down our suburban avenue until we’d press the swollen pumpkin baskets against our chests to keep our sweet treasure from spilling out onto the asphalt. He would retrieve my candy from the blue house on the corner as I waited at the end of the driveway, cowering in fear of the neighborhood Pomeranian.

Holly rolled her eyes at my whining. She had always kept me on edge: one minute she would be blowing bubbles in her chocolate milk with me, the next she would be slamming her bedroom door in my face. I attributed this to her being two years older than I; that’s what big sisters do.

“We’ll figure that out, Gracie. Why don’t we play Mad Libs to pass the time?” Mommy cocked her frizzy head just enough to flash a weary smile, reaching back with her free hand to toss Holly the Mad Libs book that held archives of our previous road trips. Miranda shifted in the car seat behind me. Blonde wisps of dewy hair coiled around her rosy cheeks as her mouth formed an angelic O. I had almost forgotten she was there; she seemed to sleep through everything.

“Alright, adjective,” murmured Holly, who had never been able to speak above a whisper. She would always mumble her order in my ear at restaurants so I could relay, “Chicken tenders, please,” to the waiter. Sometimes Mommy would pay her a quarter to say hello to people when they greeted her in public. Holly adjusted her glasses as she held the indigo Crayola marker ready. Her sleeves were a little too long, tucked between her fingers. Her chestnut bangs hid her forehead from view.

“Foggy,” I responded halfheartedly, noticing how the world outside of our stuffy vehicle was a subdued grayscale map. I wondered if things would ever regain their color, or if rain had washed and worn the sky and our basement into permanent dullness. Even our once-beautiful dollies had mildew spreading like frost on their porcelain skin. I felt guilty for ruining them. Mommy, Holly, and I threw words at each other until twilight welcomed us to Niagara Falls, but all I could think about was how my dad wasn’t there to yell, “toenail!” for every noun.

Holly and I rolled our matching turquoise suitcases across wet parking lot gravel as Mommy’s arms, covered by a shapeless sweater, juggled a sleepy Miranda and an overstuffed purse. After some thoroughly disappointing exploration, we decided that the motel was nothing extraordinary. It smelled like cheap breakfast sandwiches and cigarettes, nothing like the ritzy resorts we stayed at during my dad’s big court cases, which had complimentary cookies and heated swimming pools. This place boasted leaky ceilings and baroque patterned wallpaper, peeling at the corners of the room, which oddly resembled throngs of dancing turtles.

“Do you see turtles, too? Or is it just me?” Holly whisper-giggled in my ear as Mommy bartered with the concierge.

Soon after sunrise, we walked to the cloud-covered Falls. Three pairs of warm, sticky hands met the steel railing at the overlook in captivated unison. Miranda, straining to be in our atmosphere, stood on tiptoe on the bottom beam of the fence that kept us from plummeting into the frothy rapids below. We were enthroned in mist, three constants among the unyielding rush.

“I heard there was a guy who went down the waterfall in a barrel and survived,” I bellowed over the mild roar of the cascades, gripping my dad’s tattered Callaway Golf hat to my chest. He would wear that hat every day in the yard, fervently practicing his shot as I sat on the stone steps and watched every swing, running barefoot to retrieve golf balls from the neighbor’s manicured lawn. Holly’s glasses were fogged, shielding me from her jet-black stare, but I felt her scorn just as strong.

“You believe everything you hear,” she snapped sharply, fiddling with the machine that offered a magnified postcard view.

It’s because I hear everything, I thought. My older sister’s words stung me more than the rogue beads of water that splashed into my eyes. Not that I’d wanted it to, but my keenness for excessive observation had become my enemy. Holly didn’t seem to hear the things that I heard. She didn’t eavesdrop on Mommy’s phone call with Aunt Susan through the locked bathroom door while her voice cracked through the running faucet: “I never want to see his fucking face again.” Holly didn’t ask her friend on the school bus the next morning what that meant. She didn’t sit on the fifth stair, concealed by the living room wall, listening to them hush-hissing at each other at midnight. Holly didn’t read that text from someone named Missy on my dad’s second cell phone while playing Tetris during his conference.

“wish I could see u.”

I didn’t plan on being the only one awake when Mommy snuggled into my twin bed and draped her arms around me, kissing my forehead and sighing, “It’s not your fault, baby muffin.” I didn’t mean to be the only one to realize that we were all she had left. So when my dad, sneaky and silently as he could, packed his prized baseballs and framed law degrees and soccer ball mask away in cardboard boxes, I was the one who grabbed his beloved baseball cap in solemn preparation.

Whoosh. I closed my eyes to calm my foggy thoughts, listening to the buckets of water beating the rocks, to the sound of endless falling and crashing, to the untamed wind. I wasn’t entirely sure how long we were going to be there, avoiding the rotting basement and the reality of a life without my dad, but there was something soothing about the sound of escape. I opened my eyes to see Miranda waddling over to Mommy, who was perched on a rusty park bench with a pencil in hand. Mommy sometimes seemed as if she was in a trance, staring off into space with an uninterruptible blank expression. Today, she looked tranquil, the usual dark circles under her eyes a little less severe. Miranda laughed and clapped her little hands with amusement, as a squirrel scurried across the bench. Mommy smiled wide and scribbled in her journal.

“How much do you think the barrel guy got fined?” Holly asked playfully, leaning over the steel railing next to me.

I laughed, thinking about how much I would get fined for dropping my dad’s hat into the abyss.

“Probably enough to fix our basement,” I responded, reaching down to tie my Keds. Holly’s quiet velvet laugh echoed in my head as Miranda’s giggling resonated in the background, mingling with the rushing water, and in that moment I appreciated my ability to hear.

Grace Gilbert is a sophomore English (creative writing), and childhood and special education double major at SUNY Geneseo. She drops things a lot, and probably eats too much cheese for her own good.

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Grace Gilbert


my father smells like rusting

coins, twisted copper boundaries, collected

nickles, pennies, dimes,

prismatic faces coalescing in sidecar compartments

commiserating with their greening alloys.

he strikes “in God we trust” into my molten palms

so hard, i still feel

engraved long after the coin

drops, small angles scattering

over heatless chrome.

i scrub my hands. corrode the crystal lattice

cultured in the microcracks of my flesh.

he seizes our swelling jars of cents, empties

every vessel into the lake, oscillating

eternal wishes or maybe craving

brittle fracture, to cleave himself from his scent

as i know it.

why mint? why stamp metal daughters fated

to be totaled, fingered, intermingled along a planar array

below sea level?

the lake is metallic. brined.

a marinade of stacked copper faults.

steeped silvery reminders

of my father’s hands.

Grace Gilbert is a sophomore English (creative writing), and childhood and special education double major at SUNY Geneseo. She drops things a lot, and probably eats too much cheese for her own good.

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