Tuesday, 11 March 2014
ELDER POETRY INTERLUDE: Getting Old by Jack Gilbert
Someday I might tell you the story of why I never married again after divorcing at age 31. Or not, and not today. Instead, I give you a poem that resonates with me on that topic.
It arrived a few weeks ago from Tom Delmore, poet, whom I've told you about before. Titled Getting Old, it was written by Jack Gilbert who died in 2012 at age 87.
But now that I think about it more carefully, a couple of sentences from an article about Gilbert that Delmore included in his email is more strongly resonant than the poem.
Here is what you need to know before you read Getting Old: For many years, Gilbert had been married to a poet who had once been his student. They divorced:
”After they broke up, Gilbert fell in love with a sculptor named Michiko Nogami, and he moved with her to Japan. During all those years, he didn't publish another book — when he was asked why, he said that he was spending his time falling in love with those two women.”
You can find out more about Gilbert at the Poetry Foundation website (and maybe even the source of that quotation). Today's poem is from Gilbert's book, Collected Poems which is available from Amazon and other booksellers.
The soft wind comes sweet in the night
on the mountain. Invisible except for
the sound it makes in the big poplars outside
and the feel on his naked, single body,
which breathes quietly a little before dawn,
eyes open and in love with the table
and chair in the transparent dark and stars
in the other window. Soon it will be time
for the first tea and cool pear and then
the miles down and miles up the mountain.
"Old and alone," he thinks, smiling.
Full of what abundance has done to his spirit.
Feeling around inside to see if his heart
is still, thank God, ambitious. The way
old men look in their eyes each morning.
Knowing she isn't there and how much Michiko
isn't anywhere. The eyes close as he remembers
seeing the big owl on the roof last night
for the first time after hearing it for months.
Thinking how much he has grown unsuited
for love the size it is for him. "But maybe
not," he says. And the eyes open as he
grins at the heart's stubborn pretending.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Janet Thompson: Weather Stories or Colder Than a Well Driller's Ass