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Reflections of a working writer and reader



A Poem from Jack Gilbert

Failing and Flying
by Jack Gilbert

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It’s the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning so extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.

Jack Gilbert is the author of Transgressions: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books 2006), Refusing Heaven (2005), winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, and The Great Fires: Poems 1982-1992 (1996).

6 Responses to “A Poem from Jack Gilbert”

  1. Thomas says:

    Great stuff.

  2. Lily says:

    This is why I come over here, John. (Well, there are other reasons, but being given the words you need for what’s happening right now, is certainly one of them.) Thank you.

    jb says: Hi Lily. I know you know. . .

  3. Dick says:

    That’s a lovely poem. Thanks for posting, John.

    Same protagonist, different setting. Martin Simpson singing Anne Lister’s song ‘Icarus’.

    jb says: Oh, that’s wonderful, Dick. Thanks for the link.

  4. Justin says:

    Very nice. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  5. Matt says:

    nice poem,love this!

  6. Jack Gilbert always has something important to say. And beautifully. Thank you!