Poetry Corner

Poetry Corner October 9, 2010

I think I am going to try something new around here.  One of my favorite things to do, especially on a beautiful morning like this one, when the sun is pouring in the windows and there’s a bite of Autumn in the air, is to read some poetry.  This morning I thought: why not share?

The following is a poem that took awhile to grow on me.  I didn’t like it the first couple of times I read it–maybe the words were too fast, tumbling all over each other.  Or, more likely, the images in this poem swing from raw pain to raw pain.  But the more I read the more I could see the point of the poet: that there is joy in all of life, and that the triumph of the human spirit, or the recognition of our Creator in the very mundane moments of life, these are precious.  There’s joy somewhere, always, just like there’s pain everywhere we look.  Consider Gilbert’s words: “We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world. To make injustice the only measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.” 

Definitely worth considering this Saturday morning, don’t you think?

A Brief for the Defense

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies

are not starving someplace, they are starving

somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.

But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.

Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not

be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not

be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women

at the fountain are laughing together between

the suffering they have known and the awfulness

in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody

in the village is very sick. There is laughter

every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,

and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.

If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,

we lessen the importance of their deprivation.

We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,

but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have

the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless

furnace of this world. To make injustice the only

measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.

If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,

we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.

We must admit there will be music despite everything.

We stand at the prow again of a small ship

anchored late at night in the tiny port

looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront

is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.

To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat

comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth

all the years of sorrow that are to come.

Jack Gilbert


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