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The Great Fires: Poems, 1982-1992


The Great Fires: Poems, 1982-1992 Cover




Measuring the Tyger

Barrels of chains. Sides of beef stacked in vans.

Water buffalo dragging logs of teak in the river mud

outside Mandalay. Pantocrater in the Byzantium dome.

The mammoth overhead crane bringing slabs of steel

through the dingy light and roar to the giant shear

that cuts the adamantine three-quarter-inch plates

and they flop down. The weight of the mind fractures

the girders and piers of the spirit, spilling out

the heart's melt. Incandescent ingots big as cars

trundling out of titanic mills, red slag scaling off

the brighter metal in the dark. The Monongahela River

below, night's sheen its belly. Silence except

for the machinery clanging deeper in us. You will

love again, people say. Give it time. Me with time

running out. Day after day of the everyday.

What they call real life, made of eighth-inch gauge.

Newness strutting around as if it were significant.

Irony, neatness and rhyme pretending to be poetry.

I want to go back to that time after Michiko's death

when I cried every day among the trees. To the real.

To the magnitude of pain, of being that much alive.


To See If Something Comes Next

There is nothing here at the top of the valley.

Sky and morning, silence and the dry smell

of heavy sunlight on the stone everywhere.

Goats occasionally, and the sound of roosters

in the bright heat where he lives with the dead

woman and purity. Trying to see if something

comes next. Wondering whether he has stalled.

Maybe, he thinks, it is like the Noh: whenever

the script says dances, whatever the actor does next

is a dance. If he stands still, he is dancing.


Scheming in the Snow

There is a time after what comes after

being young, and a time after that, he thinks

happily as he walks through the winter woods,

hearing in silence a woodpecker far off.

Remembering his Chinese friend

whose brother gave her a jade ring from

the Han Dynasty when she turned eighteen.

Two weeks later, when she was hurrying up

the steps of a Hong Kong bridge, she fell,

and the thousand-year-old ring shattered

on the concrete. When she told him, stunned

and tears running down her face, he said,

"Don't cry. I'll get you something better."

Product Details

Gilbert, Jack
Knopf Publishing Group
American - General
Single Author *
General Poetry
Poetry-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8.45x5.49x.44 in. .30 lbs.

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Fiction and Poetry » Poetry » A to Z

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