Thrushes flying under the lake. Nightingales singing underground.
Yes, my King. Paris hungry and leisurely just after the war. Yes.
America falling into history. Yes. Those silent winter afternoons
along the Seine when I was always alone. Yes, my King. Rain
everywhere in the forests of Pennsylvania as the king’s coach
lumbered and was caught and all stood gathered close
while the black trees went on and on. Ah, my King,
it was the sweet time of our lives: the rain shining on their faces,
the loud sound of rain around. Like the nights we waited,
knowing she was probably warm and moaning under someone else.
That cold mansard looked out over the huge hospital of the poor
and far down on Paris, grey and beautiful under the February rain.
Between that and this. That yes and this yes. Between, my King,
that forgotten girl, forgotten pain, and the consequence.
Those lovely, long-ago night bells that I did not notice grow
more and more apparent in me. Like pewter expanding as it cools.
Yes, like a king halted in the great forest of Pennsylvania.
Like me singing these prison songs to praise the gray,
to praise her, to tell of me, yes, and of you, my King.

Jack Gilbert

(from Monolithos)

see him read it at


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