“The Lost Hotels of Paris” by Jack Gilbert


The Lord gives everything and charges
by taking it back. What a bargain.
Like being young for a while. We are
allowed to visit hearts of women,
to go into their bodies so we feel
no longer alone. We are permitted
romantic love with its bounty and half-life
of two years. It is right to mourn
for the small hotels of Paris that used to be
when we used to be. My mansard looking
down on Notre Dame every morning is gone,
and me listening to the bell at night.
Venice is no more. The best Greek Islands
have drowned in acceleration. But it’s the having
not the keeping that is the treasure.
Ginsberg came to my house one afternoon
and said he was giving up poetry
because it told lies, that language distorts.
I agreed, but asked what we have
that gets it right even that much.
We look up at the stars and they are
not there. We see the memory
of when they were, once upon a time.
And that too is more than enough.

~ Jack Gilbert, “The Lost Hotels of Paris.” Collected Poems.

7 thoughts on ““The Lost Hotels of Paris” by Jack Gilbert

  1. Will Grimes

    In his book, _Beautiful & pointless_ David Orr, a poetry columnist for the NYT, pointed out that poetry has “a peculiar relationship with love . . . “ He meant: “that people who read poetry have a tendency, not simply to say that they ‘like’ or ‘enjoy’ the art form, but rather that they ‘love’ it. And they appear to do this far more than people who are interested in other, comparable things.” Using Google (in some way or other) Orr found that people who read poetry announce by a ratio of 2 to 1 that they love poetry over just liking it. Orr goes on to discuss this phenomenon at pages 184-187 of his book, but I won’t do that here. Here, I will say that I love the poetry of Jack Gilbert, I love this poem and I love his book of _Collected Poems_. Speaking to poetry, the poet Frank O’Hara wrote in his poem ‘Poetry’:

    “ All this I desire. To
    deepen you by my quickness
    and delight as if you
    were logical and proven,
    but still be quiet as if
    I were used to you; as if
    you would never leave me
    and were the inexorable
    product of my own time.”

    Will Grimes

    Liked by 1 person

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