do is not the doing...

Jack Gilbert


Flying up, crossing over, going forward.
Passing through, getting deep enough. Breaking
into, finding the way, living at the heart
and going beyond that. Finally realizing
that arriving is not the same as being resident.
That what we do is not what we are doing.
We go into the orchard for apples. But what
we carry back is the day among trees with odor,
coolness, dappled light and time. The season
and geese going over. Always and always
with death to come, and before that the dishonor
of growing old. But meanwhile the trees are
heavy with ripe fruit. We try to visit Greece
and find ourselves instead in the pointless noon
standing among vetch and grapes, disassembling
as night climbs beautifully out of the earth
and God holds His breath. In the distance there is
the faint clatter of a farmer’s bucket as she
gets water up at the well for the animals.

          – from The Great Fires, 1994


The opening to this Gilbert piece cuts to the core: finding the way, then going beyond that. Gilbert, at his best, can never be explained, though the feeling of connection is there. His poetry is more about experience – absorbing the very essence of truth. Knowing it, though one may not be able to speak it. “What we do is not what we are doing.” – Something always stands beyond the life we are living, beyond the action.

“The season and geese going over,” he writes, showing the change that takes us. We try to visit, we try to find ourselves. But night climbs out of the earth. As we go, there is a distant clatter, always, at the edge of our hearing and knowing.


jenni said...

That is such a beautiful poem. I love Gilbert's work. Thanks so much for this, it reminds me to reread his book. Happy easter.

Sam of the ten thousand things said...

He is wonderful. Thanks for the read, Jenni.

cogresha said...

I love The Great Fires. One of my favorites is The Forgotten Dialect Of The Heart. Love your blog!

Sam of the ten thousand things said...

"Forgotten Dialect" is such a great piece. Thanks for commenting, cogresha.