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.


Copyright © 2019 by Brian Turner. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 23, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“This poem is part of a book I’m working on called All of Us Dying in Jack Gilbert’s Arms. This was written in December of 2014, a year and a half after my wife, poet Ilyse Kusnetz, was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. As I look back, I can see how I was writing about what I feared most at the time—myself, alone, now walking the path that Gilbert had worn along the side of his own mountain, his arms filled with grief, elegy, celebration, love.”
—Brian Turner