Jack Gilbert


Bella figa! (beautiful fig, fine sex) the whore said

in the back streets of Livorno, proudly slapping

her groin when the man tired to get the price down.

Braddock, the heavyweight champion of the world,

when Joe Louis was destroying him, blood spraying,

and his manager between rounds wanting to stop

the fight, said: “No, I won the title in the ring,

I’m going to lose it in the ring.” And, after more

damage, did. Therefore does the wind keep blowing

that holds this great earth in the air.

For this the birds sing sometimes without purpose.

We value the soiled theater because of what

sometimes happens there. Berlin in the Thirties.

There were flowers all around Christ

in his agony at Gethsemane. The Lord sees everything

and sees that it is good despite everything.

The manger was filthy. The women at Dachau pushed

back the Nazi guard who wanted to die with them,

saying he must live for their sake.

And sang for a little after the doors closed.

Jack Gilbert

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. His Collected Poems has just been published by Knopf. 

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