Tear It Down (Jack Gilbert)

June 30, 2008

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 racoon 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 the body.

* * *
Jack Gilbert spends much of his time burrowing at the root of things, in those spaces where life–or the life within life–really happens. This poem is no exception. His poems are more easily felt, I think, than heard, whatever that means. What we have, what we’ve been given, is right there before us, and we must insist on it–to speak, to be. Meaning, fulfillment–these are not found someplace else, in some other city. If they are anywhere at all, they are right in front of us.

There is a wonderful interview with Gilbert on NPR worth listening to if you have the time:  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5370284.


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