I Imagine The Gods
I imagine the gods saying, We will
make it up to you. We will give you
three wishes, they say. Let me see
the squirrels again, I tell them.
Let me eat some of the great hog
stuffed and roasted on its giant spit
and put out, steaming, into the winter
of my neighborhood when I was usually
too broke to afford even the hundred grams
I ate so happily walking up the cobbles,
past the Street of the Moon
and the Street of the Birdcage-Makers,
the Street of Silence and the Street
of the Little Pissing. We can give you
wisdom, they say in their rich voices.
Let me go at last to Hugette, I say,
the Algerian student with her huge eyes
who timidly invited me to her room
when I was too young and bewildered
that first year in Paris.
Let me at least fail at my life.
Think, they say patiently, we could
make you famous again. Let me fall
in love one last time, I beg them.
Teach me mortality, frighten me
into the present. Help me to find
the heft of these days. That the nights
will be full enough and my heart feral.
[Guest entry by Mairead: I love Gilbert for his wisdom and the simple beauty of his voice; lines like “Let me at least fail at my life” and “Help me to find / the heft of these days” also have an elegance to their sound that gets stuck in my head. This is from his third (of only four) books, written when he was in his late sixties, and there’s longing in this poem, I think, an urgency to maintain the immediacy of youth. Anyone lucky enough to get their hands on his most recent book, Refusing Heaven, should also read “Bring in the Gods,” in which he confronts the same questions with another decade’s wisdom: “I want to fail. I am hungry / for what I am becoming.”]
More like this:
The Abnormal Is Not Courage, Jack Gilbert
In Umbria, Jack Gilbert
A Brief for the Defense, Jack Gilbert (& more Gilbert links)
A year ago: An Offer Received In This Morning’s Mail, Amy Gerstler
Two years ago: The Last Poem In The World, Hayden Carruth