Waking at Night
The blue river is gray at morning
and evening. There is twilight
at dawn and dusk. I lie in the dark
wondering if this quiet in me now
is a beginning or an end.
Cherishing What Isn’t
Ah, you three women whom I have loved in this
long life, along with the few others.
And the four I may have loved, or stopped short
of loving. I wander through these woods
making songs of you. Some of regret, some
of longing, and a terrible one of death.
I carry the privacy of your bodies
and hearts in me. The shameful ardor
and the shameless intimacy, the secret kinds
of happiness and the walled-up childhoods.
I carol loudly of you among trees emptied
of winter and rejoice quietly in summer.
A score of women if you count love both large
and small, real ones that were brief
and those that lasted. Gentle love and some
almost like an animal with its prey.
What is left is what’s alive in me. The failing
of your beauty and its remaining.
You are like countries in which my love
took place. Like a bell in the trees
that makes your music in each wind that moves.
A music composed of what you have forgotten.
That will end with my ending.
The train’s stopping wakes me.
Weeds in the gully are white
with the year’s first snow.
A lighted train goes
slowly past absolutely empty.
Also going to Fukuoka.
I feel around in myself
to see if I mind. Maybe
I am lonely. It is hard
to know. It could be
hidden in familiarity.
To Know the Invisible
The Americans tried and tried to see
the invisible Indians in the deeper jungle
of Brazil. They waited for months,
maybe for years. Until a knife and a pot
disappeared. They put out other things
and some of those vanished. Then one morning
there was a jungle offering sitting on the ground.
Gradually they began to know the invisible
by the jungle’s choices. Even when nothing
replaced the gifts, it was a kind of seeing.
Like the woman you camp outside of, at the five portals.
Attending the conduits that tunnel from the apparatus
down to the capital of her. Through the body
and its weather, to the mind and heart, to the spirit
beyond. To the mystery. And gradually to the ghosts
coming and leaving. To the difference between
the nightingale and the Japanese nightingale
which is not a nightingale. Getting lost in the treachery
of language, waylaid by the rain dancing its pavane
in the bruised light of winter afternoons.
By the flesh, luminous and transparent in the silent
clearing of her. Love as two spirits flickering
at the edge of meeting. An apartment on the third
floor without an elevator, white walls and almost
no furniture. Water seen through pine trees.
Love like the smell of basil. Richness beyond
anyone’s ability to cope with. The way love is after fifty.
– Jack Gilbert, The Dance Most of All