A luvvly pome

Friday 29 August 2008

A Brief for the Defense

by Jack Gilbert

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered caf├ęs and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

Beyodifol. Seen at Abbey of the Arts, where the latest poetry party is ablaze which, unfortunately, ends in about 3 hours. Now, poems tend to just fall out of my brain fully formed, having been cooking themselves on backburner number 138 without me even having any idea there's anything cooking at all. So who am I to say that one won't pop out in time? But I doubt it. My brain is as mushy as the Collingwood Fremantle game on the telly.


  1. hmm I enjoyed the first half of that poem, but the second half got lost...pity, it started out so well.

  2. ooooh, I like that. I almost never like poetry, but i liked that.

  3. Astonishing poem - thank you, Sue!

    "To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
    comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
    all the years of sorrow that are to come."

    Reminds me of Leonard Cohen, somehow - and I mean that in a good way!

  4. Andrea - it does seem to be kind of a poem of two halves, doesn't it? Maybe you got lost because it was 4.23 and you couldn't see past your nose? :D (I stayed up really late too ... blergh)

    Tyler - cool :)

    Mike - Yeah, it does :)

  5. Wow. I am trying to take all this in.


    That game was so bloody boring, Mork, I was barracking for Carlton in the end :) I wanted Fevola to kick his 100 goals as well. (I'm so uncompetitive, haha ... until next week that is. Finals!)

  7. Robin in Seattle31 August 2008 at 05:24

    Thanks for posting this, I liked the whole thing. I've been wrestling with this joy in blessigs vs. sorrow at injustice issue lately. So it was timely.

    Came by here today because I wanted to let you know about this: http://www.toshireagon.com/parisTemptation.shtml

    I don't know if you've heard of Toshi Reagon, but I think you might like her music. This St. Anthony thing - I have no idea about it. But it sounded interesting and they're headed your way.

    joy to you,


  8. Clueless in Seattle31 August 2008 at 05:31

    Drat! I overlooked the year. It was Oct. 2007... *blushes sheepishly*

    But I think you might want to check out Toshi's music anyway.


  9. Thanks, Clueless. I hope Toshi had a good time when she was in Melbourne a year ago, duh ;)

    I'll check her out. Thanks!


Newer Older