Through a divorce, through a bad breakup, through the death of one of my best friends, there was Jack Gilbert.
Something about Gilbert’s poetry is like a walk in the woods. I thought I knew what woods were until I wandered into a forest in Vermont in 2013. Yo. There were the tops of trees, seemingly miles high; there is cold, clean mountain water; and they all make the music in between these things called silence and presence. Gilbert suggests here that we are that music, that maybe we are not physical at all. An idea made visible through living. This is Gilbert’s philosophy, with the full stops and pauses expected of the philosopher; which, when coupled with the line breaks, forces readers to go inside themselves. This is a quiet walk among tall trees and massive sounds, which the body distills into heartbeat and motion and thought.
Music Is In The Piano Only When It Is Played
We are not one with this world. We are not
the complexity our body is, nor the summer air
idling in the big maple without purpose.
We are a shape the wind makes in these leaves
as it passes through. We are not the wood
any more than the fire, but the heat which is a marriage
between the two. We are certainly not the lake
nor the fish in it, but the something that is
pleased by them. We are the stillness when
a mighty Mediterranean noon subtracts even the voices of
insects by the broken farmhouse. We are evident
when the orchestra plays, and yet are not part
of the strings or brass. Like the song that exists
only in the singing, and is not the singer.
God does not live among the church bells
but is briefly resident there. We are occasional
like that. A lifetime of easy happiness mixed
with pain and loss, trying always to name and hold
on to the enterprise under way in our chest.
Reality is not what we marry as a feeling. It is what
walks up the dirt path, through the excessive heat
and giant sky, the sea stretching away.
He continues past the nunnery to the old villa
where he will sit on the terrace with her, their sides
touching. In the quiet that is the music of that place,
which is the difference between silence and windlessness.