Jack Gilbert died 3 days ago.

I’ve been bad at reading my Poem-A-Day emails recently. I tend to catch up on them in batches, generally when I’m procrastinating furiously. Today’s poem of the day is “Failing and Flying” by Jack Gilbert, who (the email also says) passed away on November 11, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. From everything I’ve ever read of his, he was a lovely poet and lovely man. I’ll miss him.

Failing and Flying

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It’s the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning so extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.

~ Jack Gilbert


3 thoughts on “Jack Gilbert died 3 days ago.

  1. Guess you’ve either lived it or you haven’t, but for anyone who’s been there, this small poem tells the truth about love, brief, unrecognized as such, and lost:

    Going There

    Of course it was a disaster.
    The unbearable, dearest secret
    has always been a disaster.
    The danger when we try to leave.
    Going over and over afterward
    what we should have done
    instead of what we did.
    But for those short times
    we seemed to be alive. Misled,
    misused, lied to and cheated,
    certainly. Still, for that
    little while, we visited
    our possible life.

    Jack Gilbert

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