Dorianne Laux writes: “This photo was reclaimed from a box left out in the rain. Even water was turned to a great fire when it came to Jack.”

I was saddened by the news that the great poet Jack Gilbert just died today. Here is a very good bio and interview from years ago in The Paris Review.<;

and here is a tender beautiful piece on Linda Gregg… and Jack: <;

from Burning (Andante Non Troppo)
We are all burning in time, but each is consumed
at his own speed. Each is the product
of his spirit’s refraction, of the inflection
of that mind. It is the pace of our living
that makes the world available. Regardless of
the body’s lion-wrath or forest waiting, despite
the mind’s splendid appetite or the sad power
in our soul’s separation from God and women
it is always our gait of being that decides
how much is seen, what the mystery of us knows,
and what the heart will smell of the landscape….

I went back over a poem I wrote in Jane Hirshfield’s class at Napa Valley Writer’s Conference over 5 years ago.I re-worked it, and will continue to do so for awhile.  The bones of his poems are so strong, you can build a house or another poem from the inherent structure of his words. So here’s my tribute to Jack Gilbert and his poem it sprouted from. There are references to other poets and I use the titles of two of Ruth Stone’s poetry books,  In an Iridescent Time, and Simplicity, as well as lines from Shelley and Gilbert.

 Retail  – [after Jack Gilbert’s Going Wrong] ~  by Tamam Kahn               
                                                                  For Ruth Stone
 The dress is beautiful. Pleated shibori.
Folded shivers. Sculpted silk that eases
toward the hem and respects the line
of a woman’s hip. It’s like nothing else
in the shop. In an Iridescent Time,
the woman hums, smoothing it.
 “What can you know of my silks!”
demands the Malicious Muse. Simplicity,
the woman answers as she lifts the mannequin
to the display window, rotates the base.
The muse gestures dramatically. “I have shown you fabric
dyed with lines from Shelly: “God save the Queen!”
All you come up with is  –– simplicity?”
The woman walks outside, tilts her head slightly
and takes in the whole window. She steps back in
and selects a branch of forsythia. “You have lost
the elegant link between word and textile,” She takes
a chenille scarf and scrunches it. “Your references
are obscure, color choice at odds with Caucasian skin.
Silk worms would find your efforts clumsy.”
I am not clumsy, she thinks, watching the
edge of the silk end in “three knots and a space…”
She smiles and picks up the smooth tagging gun.
Not clumsy.    Ferocious.
In an Iridescent Time, Simplicity: books by Ruth Stone
Shelly wrote “A New National anthemwhich repeats: “God save the Queen.”
Jack Gilbert, “Having the Having:” “…three knots and a space…”


Going Wrong   by Jack Gilbert
The fish are terrible. They are brought up
the mountain in the dawn most days, beautiful
and alien and cold from night under the sea,
the grand rooms fading from their flat eyes.
Soft machinery of the dark, the man thinks,
washing them. “What can you know of my machinery!”
demands the Lord. Sure, the man says quietly
and cuts into them, laying back the dozen struts,
getting to the muck of something terrible.
The Lord insists: “You are the one who choses
to live this way. I build cities where things 
are human. I make Tuscany and you go to live
with rock and silence.” The man washes away
the blood and arranges the fish on a big plate.
Starts the onions in the hot olive oil and puts
in peppers. “You have lived all year without women.”
He takes out everything and puts in the fish.
“No one knows where you are. People forget you.
You are vain and stubborn.” The man slices
tomatoes and lemons. Takes out the fish
and scrambles eggs. I am not stubborn, he thinks,
laying all of it on the table in the courtyard
full of early sun, shadows of swallows flying
on the food.  Not stubborn, just greedy.

It is sobering to see how ordinary and even the language is. It reminds me of great musicians who seem to be doing very little, as they pull on your heartstrings and move you to tears.

I am grateful to have read his words, even the titles are wonderful. Here are a few:

Haunted Importantly, Scheming in the Snow, Having the Having, The Container for the Thing Contained, Naked Except for the Jewelry, Failing and Flying, and Half the Truth…

Jack Gilbert, by Robert Toby

Thank you Jack Gilbert for all I have learned from your poetry.  <>   <>