Slice of Life – Losing and Finding

May 21, 2024 TwoWritingTeachers.org

I’ve missed the last few Tuesdays. There is a lot I would have been writing had I been here. First and most significantly, my older sister, Judi, died at the end of April. She wasn’t sick, but she just didn’t wake up that last Sunday morning. It’s been a month to think about her and my other siblings, about death and life. Next, I have been in the midst of our final home remodeling projects, new bedroom and bathroom flooring and new closet space in our bedroom.

In honor of Judi and all my siblings, I’ve been writing poems inspired by my siblings for the month of May. On Sunday morning, I sat on the back porch and felt like I was going to church with the birds, reptiles, and mammals that surrounded me. Chipmunks and squirrels scurried about grabbing dropped bird seed. The majestic jackrabbit sauntered in before darting off. The quail, seemed so anxious for their bevies to fill with the first hatching of summer. Lizards did pushups in the sunshine. Finches, thrashers, jays, and doves all shared the bird feeder together. While I sat in this nature church, I wrote a poem using a line from a Jack Gilbert poem.

We watch the quail as they
are ready for the first hatching.
Gleaners gathering seeds and also us
who watch them, noticing their
fill of the allurement of
the living. No need for a
barn or coop to raise their young.
For the green light of
the fragments of consequence, we
winter-on through loss and ends.
That is why what
comes next is all a gift
on this mystic mansion of creation.


A golden shovel from Jack Gilbert‘s poem “Moreover” with this striking line: “We are gleaners who fill the barn for the winter that comes on.”

Poetry Friday – Jack Gilbert

Today is Poetry Friday and Linda is hosting. She shares a whole list of clunkers in her annual clunker exchange. 

Jack Gilbert once said, “I’m not a professional of poetry, I’m a farmer of poetry.” I liked that. He could have been a popular professional poet, but he eschewed the limelight. Read more about his life here.

I am reading his collected poems right now, and I especially like his poems about love and loss. The ones about his wife, Michiko, who died in her thirties, are especially poignant.

Alone

I never thought Michiko would come back
after she died. But if she did, I knew
it would be as a lady in a long white dress.
It is strange that she has returned
as somebody’s dalmatian.

read the rest here

Another thing I like about Gilbert’s poetry is his well-developed sense of place when writing of a European city, a Greek island or the steel city of his youth, Pittsburgh. Last month, I wrote about Gilbert and Pittsburgh in this prompt by Wendy Everard called Inspirational Places.

My family in Pittsburgh, 2007

Pittsburgh’s in Jack Gilbert
by Denise Krebs

As we rode Duquesne Incline,
he already was old, living in Berkeley. Steel City
watches over the growing of knowing,
for heirlooms of progeny. But this
morning, the three rivers backdrop
for thunderstorms, Andy Warhol and
the bridges of a city bring light to our
dark, pathways of connections.
To this city we came just to
give our kids a taste of Primati Bros.
(way too much cole slaw for my taste),
and the Pirates, and Randyland, a
show of hue saturation and celebration.
His hometown was the
landfall of his view from Paris,
the eye of his childhood, always
new. As each of us have our own past, in city or
country, we are products of our nurturing.
His lifetime weaving carried the thread of his
native city, coloring the world, his poetry with
land-roots of comfort and claiming.


This golden shovel striking line is “As he watches for morning, for the dark to give way and show his landfall, the new country, his native land.” By Jack Gilbert in “Looking at Pittsburgh from Paris”.

Here are a few of the many lines he wrote that include Pittsburgh:

  • Even Pittsburgh will vanish, leaving a greed tough as winter. (“They Will Put My Body into the Ground”)
  • It was Pittsburgh that lasted. The iron and fog and sooty brick houses. (“The Spirit and the Soul”)
  • Whisper Pittsburgh with my mouth against the tiny ear and throw him higher. Pittsburgh and happiness high up. (“Trying to Have Something Left Over”)
  • So that all his life her son would feel gladness unaccountably when anyone spoke of the ruined city of steel in America. Each time almost remembering something maybe important that got lost. (“Trying to Have Something Left Over”)
  • The Pittsburgh lamps inside of him make it look maybe not good enough (“Carrying Torches at Noon”)
  • Smell of Pittsburgh after rain. Smell of winter steel and grease… (“Threshing the Fire”)
  • Is it because Pittsburgh is still tangled in him that he has the picture on his wall of God’s head torn about by jungle roots? (“A Taste for Grit and Whatever”)

See what I mean?

My May poems about my siblings continue here.