We were all Jack Gilbert’s lovers, not in the world
but in the poems, in the world of the poems, dying
on the rocky broken spurs of hard islands in a blue
country across the sea, lovers carried in his arms
for decades sometimes, more, the wind a character
that refused to lift the center of the word pain, where
vowels fall into the letter n the way the summer,
wheat-blazed and feral, pours into the cold weeks
of November, winter in its bones to come. Jack
loved us, not as a god or a devil, however nuanced,
but as one who must attend to the difficult harvest
of a life, to the losses and the simple grain that we might,
if we listen beyond the howling in our own hearts, hear 
him singing about as he carries us up the dead mountain.

More by Brian Turner

Phantom Noise

There is this ringing hum  this
bullet-borne language  ringing
shell-fall and static this  late-night
ringing of threadwork and carpet  ringing
hiss and steam  this wing-beat
of rotors and tanks  broken
bodies ringing in steel  humming these
voices of dust  these years ringing
rifles in Babylon  rifles in Sumer
ringing these children their gravestones
and candy  their limbs gone missing  their
static-borne television  their ringing
this eardrum  this rifled symphonic  this
ringing of midnight in gunpowder and oil this
brake pad gone useless  this muzzle-flash singing  this
threading of bullets in muscle and bone  this ringing
hum  this ringing hum  this
ringing

Related Poems

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.

Song to Gabriel Hirsch

We first met in your home. Outside,
summer fire. Inside, Texas
summer ice, I was wiped out
by travel and illness, lying on a couch,
which made me a good height for you to talk to.
That I had a son with the same name
as you, struck you with wonder—me, too—
one name, one label, two beings. We said,
to each other, I think, whatever came into
our minds—put there by what the other
had just said—as if we threw,
one by one, taking turns, those
intensely dried paper flowers
of my childhood, into a glass of water,
and watched them uncurl, fast, uneven,
and bright—and tossed another. We were in
the present moment, so intensely in it
everything outside it took a step back,
out of the light, then another step back.
And that was where we met, next,
years later, in that light, you were so
intent, alert, alive, as if
in the grip of a fierce brightness, and moving
around in it, quick in its grip. I wish I had
been there, last week, to hear your best friend,
who had met you eye to eye—in what,
in your childhood, was the future—talk of how
extraordinary you were, my almost
unknown dear, your mother’s and father’s
dearest. You were wearing a cape, that first day,
a cloak of many colors, a cloud,
your hand on the shoulder of the wild creature of your life.

Toward the Island

translated by Eloisa Amezcua & Pablo Medina

It smells of forest and it smells of sea.
Look how the vulture rises
on the ladder of the winds.

It smells of the woman who loved you
between sheets of abandon,
wrapped and beautiful, lethal as a knife.
Look how the lady with the parasol passes.

On the island, the cold moon is a mirror
of a snowfall at the end of the world,
so far from your womb,
so close to disdain.

The voice of no one follows you.
The island is a stretch of fragments:
wave, hill, song, ghost. 


Hacia la isla

Huele a bosque y huele a mar.
Mira como sube la tiñosa
por la escala de los vientos.

Huele a la mujer que te amó
entre las sábanas del desparpajo,
enclaustrada y bella, letal como navaja.
Mira como pasa la señora con sombrilla.

En la isla la luna fría es el espejo
de una nieve de fin de mundo,
tan lejos de tu vientre,
tan cerca del desdén.
La voz de nadie te persigue.
La isla es un trecho de fragmentos:
ola, monte, canto, espanto.