In the House of Self-Undoing


poem by Elisa Gabbert & Kathleen Rooney


Off to the side of a regular highway in a nowhere town,
a glimpse in the side-view mirror says you’re beautiful

from 45 degrees, but not the way you used to be.
The only practical way to stop time is to disappear

such that everyone recalls their final sight of you.
If it’s true that everything was more beautiful

in the past, we should want to die young, to speed
past the other minor characters to the disappear-

ing point. The wind, the moon, the fields, the planets:
from your speck-like perspective, it’s all beautiful

and huge; it’s too much to see. On a clear night,
flash your brights and make the heavens disappear.



Authors’ Note: Typically, our collaboration is driven by some kind of structural constraint, and “In the House of Self-Undoing” is no exception. We wrote it in a sort of pseudo-ghazal form where we selected two end words–“beautiful” and “disappear”–and alternated their repetition at the end of each couplet. We took turns adding lines to the poem back and forth over Gmail, as has been our habit for about seven years now.

Elisa Gabbert

Kathleen Rooney

photo by Hailey King