Not Getting Closerby Jack Gilbert, from Refusing Heaven, Knopf 2005
***Walking in the dark streets of Seoul under the almost full moon. Lost for the last two hours. Finishing a loaf of bread and worried about the curfew. I have not spoken for three days and I am thinking, “Why not just settle for love? Why not just settle for love instead?”
I’m teaching poetry to my middle school units today, so in searching for poems that don’t suck to supplement the ones in our book that do suck (as poetry in middle school and high school text books so frequently do), I stumbled across this one. I know I must have read it before, because it’s by Jack Gilbert from the collection Refusing Heaven and I remember reading the title and comparing it against the poem 3 pages away titled “Getting Closer.” And yet, somehow, I read it today sitting in my little classroom on the southeastern coast of Korea, with a view of Jangsan Mountain and Dalmagi Hill, and knew that I had no idea what it meant until now.
I love this feeling– understanding a Jack Gilbert poem for the first time, despite laboriously reading him for years. Every time this happens, I feel stupidly proud of myself. Like I’ve grown up a tiny, tiny bit.