“A Brief For The Defense” by Jack Gilbert (repost)

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

Jack Gilbert, from Refusing Heaven

* originally posted February 18, 2016.

4 thoughts on ““A Brief For The Defense” by Jack Gilbert (repost)

  1. Beverly Custer

    Love Jack Gilbert and this has always been one of my absolute favorites. I quote those last 10 lines a lot. Perfect for the times.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reading this again made me cry. I’m going to read it, and tell people about Words for the Year, in a radio show I’m putting together to be broadcast at 10 PM Pacific Time next Monday night April 20. You can tune in live at kboo.org, or you can access it in the archives– I’ll post a link to that when it comes up. Thank you Christina, and thank you Jack Gilbert.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Barbara, you are truly kind and generous. I’m grateful to be a messenger, a sharer of words. And I’m grateful for our connection.
      Good luck with your show tonight! Yes, please share the link and I’ll pass it along to everyone.
      I’ll be emailing you this week assuming I get some quality quiet time.


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