Lawless Pantoum for Jack Gilbert
After an interview in The Paris Review, The Art of Poetry No. 9
By Rebecca L'Bahy
He was determined to have the life he wanted
wondered why so many settle for so little,
asked why we weren’t more determined
to have a life that mattered. He believed
we were missing out, settling for so little: family,
houses, jobs. Didn’t we know we don’t have much time?
He thought he knew what makes a life that matters.
My daughter tells me she wants real wings
so that she may fly. My daughter the genie, asks:
What have you always wanted? waits in the dark for answers
easy as wings. I feel myself running out of time.
Be greedy for what’s inside you, Jack said.
Under starred ceiling, my genie waits.
What have I been doing polishing poems in the dark?
What have you always wanted? She asks again.
My heart beats: hum-drum, hum-drum.
Have I become dreamless?
Jack said the heart has the ability to experience so much.
Tell me Jack, have I settled for too little?
The world is my daughter’s sky and she wants wings
so she might fly. Under the sheets I brush roots off my feet.
Jack turns his back on us, the conventional
family, home, jobs. Believed they diverted
from what mattered—ask me again why
I’m not more determined, have settled for so little.
I will show you how my fingers brush gently across
my daughter’s back, how a pen becomes a wing
and the whole world our sky