Friday, April 3, 2020

Poetry Month: #3 A Brief For The Defense by Jack Gilbert

One of the joys of poetry month is pushing myself to discover new favorites, generally found in a roundabout, referral sort of way. No more reading pre-packaged tomes of what someone, somewhere thought we should read. 

From Elizabeth Gilbert, I discover Jack Gilbert (no relation), not exactly on the Top 10 list, perhaps at his own choice as someone who was social distancing long before corona. 

Still, his message touches my heart and urges me to accept the “gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world.”

Lovely reading by an unknown reader. Click here.

Read more about his fascinating and largely solitary journey here:

A Brief for the Defense 

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.


  1. This is a particularly good poem. Btw, Joyce, any time you want recommendations, let me know. I have a library's worth of marvelous poetry.

    1. Maureen ... next year, let's do this together!