Jack Gilbert
To Know the Invisible

The Americans tried and tried to see

the invisible Indians in the deeper jungle

of Brazil. Finally they put things in the clearing

and waited. They waited for months,

maybe for years. Until a knife and a pot

disappeared. They put out other things

and some of those vanished. Then one morning

there was a jungle offering sitting on the ground.

Gradually they began to know the invisible

by the jungle’s choices. Even when nothing

replaced the gifts, it was a kind of seeing.

Like the woman you camp outside of, at the five portals.

Attending the conduits that tunnel from the apparatus

down to the capital of her. Through the body

and its weather, to the mind and heart, to the spirit

beyond. To the mystery. And gradually to the ghosts

coming and leaving. To the difference between

the nightingale and the Japanese nightingale

which is not a nightingale. Getting lost in the treachery

of language, waylaid by the rain dancing its pavanne

in the bruised light of winter afternoons.

By the flesh, luminous and transparent in the silent

clearing of her. Love as two spirits flickering

at the edge of meeting. An apartment on the third

floor without an elevator, white walls and almost

no furniture. Water seen through pine trees.

Love like the smell of basil. Richness beyond

anyone’s ability to cope with. The way love is after fifty.

Found In Volume 38, No. 01
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  • Jack Gilbert
Jack Gilbert
About the Author

Jack Gilbert was born in Pittsburgh in 1925. He is the author of Views of Jeopardy, the 1962 winner of the Yale Younger Poets prize; Monolithos, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; The Great Fires: Poems 1982-1992; and Refusing Heaven, winner of the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award. He died in November, 2012.