My love is a hundred pitchers of honey.

Let’s kick off National Poetry Month with this beautiful tapestry of a poem from Jack Gilbert (1925-2012), who passed away only a few months ago.

photo of Jack Gilbert courtesy of NYT

“The Forgotten Dialect Of The Heart”

How astonishing it is that language can almost mean,
and frightening that it does not quite. Love, we say,
God, we say, Rome and Michiko, we write, and the words
get it all wrong. We say bread and it means according
to which nation. French has no word for home,
and we have no word for strict pleasure. A people
in northern India is dying out because their ancient
tongue has no words for endearment. I dream of lost
vocabularies that might express some of what
we no longer can. Maybe the Etruscan texts would
finally explain why the couples on their tombs
are smiling. And maybe not. When the thousands
of mysterious Sumerian tablets were translated,
they seemed to be business records. But what if they
are poems or psalms? My joy is the same as twelve
Ethiopian goats standing silent in the morning light.
O Lord, thou art slabs of salt and ingots of copper,
as grand as ripe barley lithe under the wind’s labor.
Her breasts are six white oxen loaded with bolts
of long-fibered Egyptian cotton. My love is a hundred
pitchers of honey. Shiploads of thuya are what
my body wants to say to your body. Giraffes are this
desire in the dark. Perhaps the spiral Minoan script
is not laguage but a map. What we feel most has
no name but amber, archers, cinnamon, horses, and birds.

From THE GREAT FIRES: POEMS, 1982-1992 (Alfred A. Knopf, 1994)


Happy National Poetry Month

National Poetry Month poster

“[Poetry] is the human soul, entire, squeezed like a lemon or lime, drop by drop into atomic words.”–Langston Hughes

Dear readers,

The arrival of April calls for much celebration…wildflowers poking out of the saturated soil, the lengthening of the days, shedding of winter coats, and of course, National Poetry Month. This will mark the fifth year that I am harnessing whatever pitiful blogging discipline I possess in order to post a poem each day of the month–that was, after all, the motivation for starting this thing in the first place!

I hope you will join me again for another round of poetic romping and reflection, another taste of the bright atomic words from poets near and far, emerging and long passed.


P.S. Leave comments! And recommend other poems and poets! And do come back again.