Waking the Invisible…with Jack Gilbert

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.


Suddenly Adult

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

Jack Gilbert


Intolerable Vulnerabilities – the fictions

Intolerable Vulnerabilities – fictions

lonely old man


There comes a time when being referred to as “sir” by 100% of an establishment’s wait-staff is no longer over-polite and ironic respect, but simply a pronouncement that in these contexts you have no peers.

Eventually you’ll be skeletal, perhaps before too long the way things are going, you’ve never been difficult to avoid.

And it’s never been easy to know what you want – are you being selfless or self-protective in the attention you pay toward your lovers?  Are your emotions inaccessible (some stunted empathy) or over-attuned in such a way as to pay your own processes no mind?

Whatever the case, you’re threatened.


And now you are old, sir, and alone.  And both nothing and everything is safe, because you are no one to lose.  And any potential of personal contact – some sort of opening – would inevitably create leakage, exponentially multiplying your probabilities of loss.

If only it could be viewed as sport – this frolicking across the page.  (It’s not).


Who lays the trail

in the white sand

of the page?


Who explains it?

-Cees Nooteboom

            You.  Not you.  Here.  Not here.  Ever trapped in beginnings because of so many ends.  At this age, sir, you must force it.  Opportunity becomes a consolation called survival.

No one is fooled, particularly not you, sir.

But she reminds you of something, probably someone, which is no help to you, just an increase in the accumulated weight of what’s past.  You’ll go on, because why not? – You are nothing to lose.

Friday Fictioneers – March 29, 2013


The body as a field where many battles rage.  Strife of ideal fathering, strafed with spousal passion and demands.  The infantries advance – toward occupational worth – stealth sweeping the rewards.  Childhood plans of freedom and grandeur – the risk and adventure – hits from guerilla flanks.  The will to heroic power and injured survival.  Biology of age.  Maproom of surrender and negotiating borders.  Where the surge will be.  Today.  Rigorous advance of death.  Waging to forge something like a home, a country, an interdependent territory.  All of it leaving its marks.

It is time to sit down and write.  Time, as measured by flame.

It has to be burning.

N Filbert 2013