Thursday, February 26, 2009

Jack Gilbert's Chinese drum

There is a new poem by Jack Gilbert up at the New Yorker. For my money, he is one of our very best. Here he takes a memory from long ago and suddenly transmutes it into revelation.

Waiting and Finding

While he was in kindergarten, everybody wanted to play

the tomtoms when it came time for that. You had to

run in order to get there first, and he would not.

So he always had a triangle. He does not remember

how they played the tomtoms, but he sees clearly

their Chinese look. Red with dragons front and back

and gold studs around that held the drumhead tight.

If you had a triangle, you didn’t really make music.

You mostly waited while the tambourines and tomtoms

went on a long time. Until there was a signal for all

triangle people to hit them the right way. Usually once.

Then it was tomtoms and waiting some more. But what

he remembers is the sound of the triangle. A perfect,

shimmering sound that has lasted all his long life.

Fading out and coming again after a while. Getting lost

and the waiting for it to come again. Waiting meaning

without things. Meaning love sometimes dying out,

sometimes being taken away. Meaning that often he lives

silent in the middle of the world’s music. Waiting

for the best to come again. Beginning to hear the silence

as he waits. Beginning to like the silence maybe too much.

Jack Gilbert




Charles Gramlich said...

The use of moments of silence as music. I've always been a sucker for that.

Runechris said...

Wow.. I'm sorry to say I haven't hard of or read Jack Gilbert's poetry before...

But I like it alot... Thanks for posting this and widening my horizons...

Jim H. said...

Percussion as zen!

As a washed up drummer and sometime pretend writer of poems, I like that one a lot.

Greg said...

don't think i've read any Jack Gilbert, but that one's pretty powerful.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Charles, yes, indeed ...

C, Check out his most recent collection, "Refusing Heaven," at the library or bookstore- I think you will enjoy it.

Jim, there couldn't be a better recommendation ...

Greg, as I said to C, look for "Refusing Heaven" his most recent and a great collection.