I'd waited at least two months for it to show. Truthfully, the informational e-mail, such and such by that guy is now ready at your branch library, was more a nuisance than anything. Yeah yeah I was still interested but in the way I'm interested in sweeping the kitchen floor. Doing so is good for the soul, bad for the insects, probably works a few back muscles, though ever so briefly.
Given my questionable attitudes everything is at some time a chore or homework assignment. Unless it's drinking coffee in the morning. Coffee and pink grapefruit. The rest is commentary.
Where was I. Okay, so I had the book in a stack by my bed and realized I had to open it because there is no other way to read a book with pages. My osmosis technique, book under pillow or palm of my hand pressing on the cover of a closed tome, is not even in a beta phase.
I paged to the first poem. And was hit by all the fires of heaven and hell, truth's unsparing divinity, winds of sorrow and joy, hurricane-strength. The book is Refusing Heaven, poems by Jack Gilbert. The first poem is here, and double-spaced by me, not because I think I can improve on it, I can't, but because there was some font weirdness in copying/pasting my typed single-spaced in Word version.
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 dew 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 lesson 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 the 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 cafes 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, Refusing Heaven, Alfred A. Knopf, 2005.