Jack Gilbert

the history of men

It thrashes in the oaks and soughs in the elms.
Catches on innocence and soon dismantles that.
Sends children bewildered into life. Childhood
ends and is not buried. The young men ride out
and fall off, the horses wandering away. They get
on boats, are carried downstream, discover maidens.
They marry them without meaning to, meaning no harm,
the language beyond them. So everything ends.
Divorce gets them nowhere. They drift away from
the ruined women without noticing. See birds
high up and follow.“Out of earshot,” they think,
puzzled by earshot. History driving them forward,
making a noise like the wind in maples, of women
in their dresses. It stings their hearts finally.
It wakes them up, baffled in the middle of their lives
on a small bare island, the sea blue and empty,
the days stretching all the way to the horizon.