30 March 2006

Jack Gilbert

[from Great Fires by Jack Gilbert]

Conceiving Himself

Night after night after hot night in the clearing.
Stars, odor of damp grass, the faint sound of waves.
The palm trees around hardly visible, and the smell
of the jungle beyond. Hour after hour of the drumming
on bells, while young girls danced elegantly in their
heavy golden costumes. Afterward, groping his way
back along the dirt paths through blackness, dazed
by the trembling music, the dancing, and their hands.
(Pittsburgh so long ago. The spoor of someone inside
him.Knowing it sometimes waiting for a train in snow,
or just a moment while eating figs in a stony field.)
One evening the rain spilled down and he ran into
the tent behind the altar, where dancers and musicians
crowded together in the unnatural light of a Coleman
lantern: the girls undressing, rain in their hair,
the delicate faces still painted, their teeth white
as they laughed. None speaking English, their language
impossible. The man finally backstage in his life.

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