The Courage and Bravery of Elders
At What Age is Someone Old?

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



Michiko Nogami (1946-1982) - Jack Gilbert

Is she more apparent because she is not
anymore forever? Is her whiteness more white
because she was the color of pale honey?
A smokestack making the sky more visible.
A dead woman filling the whole world. Michiko
said, "The roses you gave me kept me awake
with the sound of their petals falling."

About love and old age: Did you see the movies 'The great beauty' or the Chilean movie 'Gloria'?
best regards

I love this poem :)

Why am I smiling? Sweet post, Ronni. As they say in some circles, "Thanks for sharing."

As one who made a number of "relationship misjudgments" in my 20s and early 30s, including two marriages that ended in divorce, I'd be interested in your story. . .Except for a stroke of incredibly good luck, I would likely NOT have remarried.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)