Andrea Gibson – “You Better Be Lighting”

I am writing this at midnight because someone reminded me I love to write about books and I decided to do it now because there is no better way of loving something than dedicating your present to it. And the book I am writing about is about love, or maybe less about love and more love itself.

I decided to buy You Better be Lightning after I watched Andrea’s amazing performance of Homesick: A Plea for our Planet, having never heard of Andrea Gibson before or even expecting to have my heart shaken in the most brutally beautiful way, it was mostly an impulse buy, but I’ve never regretted an impulse buy in my entire life. It’s mostly books, soft toys and all sorts of frog-shaped objects. What’s there to regret?

After just some poems and just as many crying sessions, I knew this book would be with me forever. And I mean physically, I used to carry my favourite poetry book everywhere, now it’s two of them. And it’s not just a symbolic thing I do or even just a comfort thing. No, it’s pure necessity. Sometimes I might need to remember what love is and how it can make you a bad activist or just a flawed human being. Sometimes I might need to remember what I’m fighting for by reading how queer youth are five times more likely to commit suicide or reminding myself how the earth is holding us with so much kindness and needs us to hold it back with at least a tiny fraction of that kindness. Sometimes a friend might need to sign a contract with themselves to stop being their own worst enemy and sometimes I need to remind myself I signed the same contract. Sometimes I might need to understand that I will never feel anger as long as I can feel love and that love can be so many things. Love can be in so many ways. Love can be the voice I hear when I read out loud the poem about Prince which teaches me once again that love can be so much more than we learn. So much more than romance or even friendship. Love can come from so many places I just stopped questioning love. It’s not love that needs questioning, but the lack of it. I started writing a review about the most beautiful poetry I’ve ever read and I ended up writing a long text about love. And this is perfect – because the most beautiful poetry out there will always speak about love and the most beautiful love in here will always be poetry.

And yes, this is a book about queerness and social justice and feminism and veganism and all the right things and it was great in all the right ways. But I don’t think that’s why I loved it.

Here’s a poem I loved that is short enough for me to type it:

Note to the stranger six feet away:

There was never not a bridge from your chest to mine. My heartbeat was always the sound of your feet walking towards me. I can’t believe how many years I lived without knowing the air you were breathing out was the air I was breathing in. Forgive me for not saying thank you before our lungs had reason to hide. Do you pray mor enow than you used to? I pray all the time. I pray to the Big Bang and the Tini Bang and to the bangs we’ll all have to cut ourselves so we can see what beauty can only be seen from six feet away. A giraffe’s neck is six feet long. A decade from now, will I remember the week I spent wondering if I could hug a giraffe’s torso and not get sick if the giraffe coughed? I don’t want to forget anything about this. Especially not how it feels to worry about everyone I love at the same time – so much of the world had been doing that already.

If every heart-worthy novelist weeps for days before killing off a beloved character, god must have spent centuries sobbing before pressing a pen to the page of this year.