More on Jack Gilbert

Littoral Press is printing a new book of poems by Steven Rood, I Say Their Names. Among the poems is this one referencing Jack Gilbert, which he kindly allowed me to post here:

Last Things

The old man still wants to write poems.
But can’t see or make a pen work.
He also repeats things. He asks me
what the tone of my life is. Tone, Jack?
Desperate, fearful, deep, courageous, happy?
Yes, Jack, all of them. That’s good, he says.
And wants to know what the shape
of my life is. Shape, Jack? Drifting,
floating, purposeful, incidental, flowing?
Yes, Jack, all of them. That’s good, he says.
Then asks me what the tone of my life is.
And its shape. I answer more carefully,
so that I really do think I have power, deep, and fear
as my tones, and uncertainty as my shape.
I was frightened, he says, that you would just float.
What do you want to do with the rest of your life? he asks.
Which he asks of everyone in the assisted living facility.
As a result, he thinks, all the residents hate him.
I tell him I love him and the way he asks his questions,
over and over, until an answer begins to clarify
as I stutter and sound stupid trying to make sense
out of myself inside his bewildering
assignments. That’s the way he’s always taught.
The strange mind and immense feeling
twisting himself and me into odd angles.
His tone is truth and will. His shape is helpless.
The rest of his life is grief.

Steven Rood
[for Jack Gilbert]

Interesting how one thing leads to another.

An Exemplary Sentence

It’s been awhile since I came across a sentence or paragraph that made me really stop and consider.  This one did:

Most people assume that meaning is embedded in the words they speak. But , according to forensic linguists, meaning is far more vaporous, teased into existence though vocalized puffs of air, hand gestures, body tilts, dancing eyebrow, and nuanced nostril flares. The transmission of meaning still involves primate mechanics worked out during the Pliocene era.
Jack Hitt
“Words on Trial”

I love this idea. Any other exemplary sentences out there, primates? Continue reading “An Exemplary Sentence”

Newly hatched

We’re back, and on the day we returned, the eggs the broody hen had been setting on hatched.  We have six new baby chicks, all offspring of Malawi and his hens.  Surely at least one will be a rooster. Really, hopefully only one, with the rest hens!

WE have many garden and chick chores to attend to–more later!

We’re #9

Although I don’t go so far as to attend Larry’s softball games, I’m very happy to cheer from afar. So let me announce that of all the over-70 softball tournament teams in Northern California, from Fresno to the Oregon border, Larry’s team, Direct Floors, is #9.  There are many teams, but only the top 15 are listed on the honor roll. Continue reading “We’re #9”

Out and back before 9:30 am, no ticket needed

This morning I was reading the selection of Jack Gilbert’s poems from the second of the small Bloodaxe anthologies I stumbled on at UCB. I liked a number of poems–a pleasant surprise. I think I’ve mentioned before that my first reaction to a new poem/poet is a kind of wariness. For me the sensibility of the poems is as important as the skill they demonstrate. There is so much I don’t like, and I close myself off out of self-protection against the assault of bad poetry.

But reading through this selection was like making a new friend. You meet for coffee or a walk, talk about things, become closer, begin to trust the sensibility of this person, share more, talk more deeply: Yes, I understand your thoughts on this, I feel that way, too. Continue reading “Out and back before 9:30 am, no ticket needed”


Years ago Larry and his friends conceived of a mythical motorcycle club called the Lowbrows. Their motto was “I’m a lowbrow. You figure it out.” (I never saw their motto written out, but I imagine lowbrows don’t use semicolons.) I don’t think the club had any purpose, it was more of a riff. But it came to mind when I thought about mentioning how much I love the Nero Wolfe mysteries by Rex Stout. I just finished listening to Before Midnight. Continue reading “Lowbrow?”

What is the sound of no rooster crowing?

All week my neighbors have been asking what happened to the rooster. They all liked hearing his crow and notice its absence. The silence has been very loud. I found this wonderful poem by the Brazilian, João Cabral de Melo Neto, a poet I don’t know, translated by Galway Kinnell, a poet I admire greatly.



Weaving the Morning


One rooster does not weave a morning,
he will always need the other roosters, Continue reading “What is the sound of no rooster crowing?”

Malawi’s memorial

After letting the rooster rest in the refrigerator for a couple of days, I turned him into stock and used the stock and some of the breast meat to make a memorial dinner. I was going to use just his meat, but most of it was too tough, so I added some commercial chicken breasts.

I used paprika to get that red color–matching his feathers, with spinach standing in for his iridescent green tail. Lots of chopped, sautéed veges to thicken the broth. We drank a toast, lit candles, and said a few words commemorating his bravery and loyalty. On her way home, one of the guests saw a fox crossing the road!

I had spent two days doing my best to fox-proof the chicken run, stapling bird net in a looping arc from the top of the fence outward. We’ll see. Now it’s time to wait to see if we get a rooster offspring from the eggs under the broody hen.

On another note, a reader sent this link to a Public Television biography of Robinson Jeffers. She titled it “Ascots and Creakiness,” which aptly describes it!

Death in the morning, an elegy

This morning I woke to squawking from the chickens. I didn’t think much of it; they’re often noisy in the morning. But it went on, and I went out in time to see a large grey fox with feathers in his mouth standing in the corner of the run. He stared as I approached, and then easily climbed the fence and ran off. The ground was littered with feathers, and one hen was trembling with several bald patches, but the real heartbreaking find was Malawi, the rooster, who lay alive but with his neck broken.

Here’s to beautiful, proud Malawi, who always led his flock to food and always waited and ate last. He successfully defended all seven hens from the fox, who went away with nothing for his trouble but a mouthful of feathers.

Continue reading “Death in the morning, an elegy”

Robinson Jeffers

At one time, Jeffers was quite the rage, but by the time he died in 1962 he fallen almost completely out of fashion. Today he is mostly known as an early environmentalist. Nonetheless, his best work is still fresh, and as today is Monday, here’s a sample. The only thing out-of-date in this poem is ‘milch cow’ for milk cow and some odd punctuation:

Carmel Point Continue reading “Robinson Jeffers”