Jack Gilbert's "Getting It All" begins with negation and assertion: "The air this morning is pleasant and praises nothing. / It lies easily on each thing." First, the unpraising air is distanced from everything, but then distance collapses "easily", whose letters echo the "pleasant" air. But unlike this air that's both distanced from and close to the world, we depend on what we "notice": "We see the trees in their early-spring greenness, / but not again until just before winter." Here, we don't "lie easily on each thing", but only connect with the world when its changes give pattern to the new, as in the rhyme of "sees", "trees", and "greenness." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 5 December)
Getting It All
Jack Gilbert, The Great Fires, 81
The air this morning is pleasant and praises nothing.
It lies easily on each thing. The light has no agency.
In this kind of world, we are on our own: the plain
black shoes of a man sitting in the doorway,
pleats of the tall woman's blue skirt as she hurries
to an office farther on. We will notice maybe
the gold-leaf edges of a book carried by the student
glinting intermittently as she crosses into the bright
sunlight on our side of the street. But usually
we depend on meditation and having things augmented.
We see the trees in their early-spring greenness,
but not again until just before winter. The common
is mostly beyond us. Love after the fervor, the wife
after three thousand nights. It is easy to realize
the horses suddenly running through an empty alley.
But marriage is clear. Like the faint sound of a cello
very late at night somewhere below in the stillness
of an old building on a street named Gernesgade.
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