Basic Needs

These excerpts from my second poetry collection, BASIC NEEDS (October 26, 2021, Rescue Press), explore and report on capitalist existence, the ways in which labor informs and alienates the self. These poems believe that love, then, is a most radical act, a way to survive and defy as we await the inevitable. —Vanessa Jimenez Gabb

from Basic Needs




CON                   MEN




We count


completion of          duties

                 you will be expected

All                            are expected



sign                                                                              your acceptance

                 and               your status                           at will






FRIDAY / I try to feel what I think / This feeling will feel / Like but I can’t / I don’t know how it will supposed to feel / It could be enchantment / To quit / The feeling of repetition for creativity / Of having done this before / Or the imprudence of grasping at nothing / A less invisible nerve / There will have been countless last days in me by then / Fantasies about not going back / The deer carcass finally disappeared / Where 124 meets 78 this morning / Every morning since the winter / Why no one has cleaned it yet /  Or if there’s cleaning for the dead bodies at all / Is part of an inherent, scientific logic / A contradiction / I feel within myself / I know I will feel tomorrow / Slightly foolish for trying to anticipate my own feelings






In Kyiv they lived

the middle of the night

on brown bread

and butter they ate

cucumbers and tomatoes

with sunflower oil and pink salt

this was Kyiv

they’d already eaten somewhere

else but were so hungry

sometimes it would be fast

but lately it had been simple

food from the kitchen without having

to go out in the dark

and snow for what

was still at the table

he’d eat and smoke

she’d pace and make hot shapes

with her body in her mouth

she’d put food and look

at them in the hallway mirror

he looked like Rodin’s sculpture

Soviet thoughts in sadness

she didn’t think she should

return from someone that sad

having little to do with the philosophical

he was a painter

who returned to his hometown

given money and time

this was his assignment

this is what we want

but art is never as essential

as we alone would like

to think and be

it’s been so hard here

to do anything to get anywhere

no work but more work

I don’t need myself

I already am me

I don’t need any more

lessons in humility

just you

just you

she felt it exactly

having not written anything

or thought to in months

but love was taking turns

affecting a rock

but look at all you’ve been

just you

just you

or as he said

you be me

I be you

that’s love

once a month they had said

no months would pass without

and so they hadn’t

the flat was tall and old and cold

a small tree blinked

day and night

do you like our tree do you

she’d never cared about trees before

or this one just that

it resided there because he did

they’d projected so much

on the projector he never got

to use for murals

actors on blank walls

the same for their silence

the same for their talking

them of themselves

they’d close their eyes

and bite in perfect clarity

when they had the energy

they kept on

disagreeing and agreeing

about white governments

and Trotsky

one time they read

one time they went to the ballet

once she tried to poem him

once he sketched her

you have so much pose

because I’m trying so hard

after she’d become nauseous

she wasn’t used

to so much swallowing

are you going to come

come for me



what if I said I wasn’t in love with you what if –

that’s for you to decide

in a voice different from their own

they blushed

you know I would never

do any of this if it weren’t for you

I promise not to bore you

and she knew

this truth to be true

his simplicity

the simplicity

of a kind of life

of the kind of vulnerability

she always wanted surprised her still





I took a plane here

then I took a plane here






There will be work

By late fall

It had been raining

In Habana Vieja

It’s so hard

Not to think of you

Privacy is complicated

The famous hotel

By the sea

Where did you come from

Where did you come from

The verbs

Aren’t important

Thank you

For this organization

The conspicuous absence

Of logos

These mountains

An absolution

When I remember

To look up

Money doesn’t always

Mean what I think

It does

It sounds lovely

Such red

Red berries

I will live

In your country

I haven’t always

In my country

We can’t always

Be so kind

The real question is not

Will we hurt

But what do I do

If this is happiness