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Best Famous Jack Gilbert Poems

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Written by Jack Gilbert | Create an image from this poem

The Abnormal Is Not Courage

 The Poles rode out from Warsaw against the German 
Tanks on horses.
Rode knowing, in sunlight, with sabers, A magnitude of beauty that allows me no peace.
And yet this poem would lessen that day.
Question The bravery.
Say it's not courage.
Call it a passion.
Would say courage isn't that.
Not at its best.
It was impossib1e, and with form.
They rode in sunlight, Were mangled.
But I say courage is not the abnormal.
Not the marvelous act.
Not Macbeth with fine speeches.
The worthless can manage in public, or for the moment.
It is too near the whore's heart: the bounty of impulse, And the failure to sustain even small kindness.
Not the marvelous act, but the evident conclusion of being.
Not strangeness, but a leap forward of the same quality.
The even loyalty.
But fresh.
Not the Prodigal Son, nor Faustus.
But Penelope.
The thing steady and clear.
Then the crescendo.
The real form.
The culmination.
And the exceeding.
Not the surprise.
The amazed understanding.
The marriage, Not the month's rapture.
Not the exception.
The beauty That is of many days.
Steady and clear.
It is the normal excellence, of long accomplishment.

Written by Jack Gilbert | Create an image from this poem

The Forgotten Dialect Of The Heart

 How astonishing it is that language can almost mean,
and frightening that it does not quite.
Love, we say, God, we say, Rome and Michiko, we write, and the words get it all wrong.
We say bread and it means according to which nation.
French has no word for home, and we have no word for strict pleasure.
A people in northern India is dying out because their ancient tongue has no words for endearment.
I dream of lost vocabularies that might express some of what we no longer can.
Maybe the Etruscan texts would finally explain why the couples on their tombs are smiling.
And maybe not.
When the thousands of mysterious Sumerian tablets were translated, they seemed to be business records.
But what if they are poems or psalms? My joy is the same as twelve Ethiopian goats standing silent in the morning light.
O Lord, thou art slabs of salt and ingots of copper, as grand as ripe barley lithe under the wind's labor.
Her breasts are six white oxen loaded with bolts of long-fibered Egyptian cotton.
My love is a hundred pitchers of honey.
Shiploads of thuya are what my body wants to say to your body.
Giraffes are this desire in the dark.
Perhaps the spiral Minoan script is not laguage but a map.
What we feel most has no name but amber, archers, cinnamon, horses, and birds.
Written by Jack Gilbert | Create an image from this poem


 Woke up suddenly thinking I heard crying.
Rushed through the dark house.
Stopped, remembering.
Stood looking out at bright moonlight on concrete.
Written by Jack Gilbert | Create an image from this poem

Poetry Is A Kind Of Lying

 Poetry is a kind of lying,
To profit the poet or beauty.
But also in that truth may be told only so.
Those who, admirably, refuse to falsify (as those who will not risk pretensions) are excluded from saying even so much.
Degas said he didn't paint what he saw, but what would enable them to see the thing he had.
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Tear It Down

 We find out the heart only by dismantling what 
the heart knows.
By redefining the morning, we find a morning that comes just after darkness.
We can break through marriage into marriage.
By insisting on love we spoil it, get beyond affection and wade mouth-deep into love.
We must unlearn the constellations to see the stars.
But going back toward childhood will not help.
The village is not better than Pittsburgh.
Only Pittsburgh is more than Pittsburgh.
Rome is better than Rome in the same way the sound of raccoon tongues licking the inside walls of the garbage tub is more than the stir of them in the muck of the garbage.
Love is not enough.
We die and are put into the earth forever.
We should insist while there is still time.
We must eat through the wildness of her sweet body already in our bed to reach the body within that body.

Written by Jack Gilbert | Create an image from this poem


 Suddenly this defeat.
This rain.
The blues gone gray And the browns gone gray And yellow A terrible amber.
In the cold streets Your warm body.
In whatever room Your warm body.
Among all the people Your absence The people who are always Not you.
I have been easy with trees Too long.
Too familiar with mountains.
Joy has been a habit.
Now Suddenly This rain.
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Portrait Number Five: Against A New York Summer

 I'd walk her home after work
buying roses and talking of Bechsteins.
She was full of soul.
Her small room was gorged with heat and there were no windows.
She'd take off everything but her pants and take the pins from her hair throwing them on the floor with a great noise.
Like Crete.
We wouldn't make love.
She'd get on the bed with those nipples and we'd lie sweating and talking of my best friend.
They were in love.
When I got quiet she'd put on usually Debussy and leaning down to the small ribs bite me.
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The Great Fires

 Love is apart from all things.
Desire and excitement are nothing beside it.
It is not the body that finds love.
What leads us there is the body.
What is not love provokes it.
What is not love quenches it.
Love lays hold of everything we know.
The passions which are called love also change everything to a newness at first.
Passion is clearly the path but does not bring us to love.
It opens the castle of our spirit so that we might find the love which is a mystery hidden there.
Love is one of many great fires.
Passion is a fire made of many woods, each of which gives off its special odor so we can know the many kinds that are not love.
Passion is the paper and twigs that kindle the flames but cannot sustain them.
Desire perishes because it tries to be love.
Love is eaten away by appetite.
Love does not last, but it is different from the passions that do not last.
Love lasts by not lasting.
Isaiah said each man walks in his own fire for his sins.
Love allows us to walk in the sweet music of our particular heart.
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In Dispraise Of Poetry

 When the King of Siam disliked a courtier, 
he gave him a beautiful white elephant.
The miracle beast deserved such ritual that to care for him properly meant ruin.
Yet to care for him improperly was worse.
It appears the gift could not be refused.
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Searching For Pittsburgh

 The fox pushes softly, blindly through me at night, 
between the liver and the stomach.
Comes to the heart and hesitates.
Considers and then goes around it.
Trying to escape the mildness of our violent world.
Goes deeper, searching for what remains of Pittsburgh in me.
The rusting mills sprawled gigantically along three rivers.
The authority of them.
The gritty alleys where we played every evening were stained pink by the inferno always surging in the sky, as though Christ and the Father were still fashioning the Earth.
Locomotives driving through the cold rain, lordly and bestial in their strength.
Massive water flowing morning and night throughout a city girded with ninety bridges.
Sumptuous-shouldered, sleek-thighed, obstinate and majestic, unquenchable.
All grip and flood, mighty sucking and deep-rooted grace.
A city of brick and tired wood.
Ox and sovereign spirit.
Primitive Pittsburgh.
Winter month after month telling of death.
The beauty forcing us as much as harshness.
Our spirits forged in that wilderness, our minds forged by the heart.
Making together a consequence of America.
The fox watched me build my Pittsburgh again and again.
In Paris afternoons on Buttes-Chaumont.
On Greek islands with their fields of stone.
In beds with women, sometimes, amid their gentleness.
Now the fox will live in our ruined house.
My tomatoes grow ripe among weeds and the sound of water.
In this happy place my serious heart has made.

Book: Reflection on the Important Things