Jack Gilbert, “Dante Dancing”

Excerpt from Jack Gilbert‘s poem, “Dante Dancing”:

I

When he dances of meeting Beatrice that first time,
he is a youth, his body has no real language,
and his heart understands nothing of what has
started. Love like a summer rain after drought,
like the thin cry of a read-tailed hawk, like an angel
sinking its teeth into our throat. He has only
beginner steps to tell of the sheen inside him.
The boy Dante sees her first with the absolute love
possible only when we are ignorant of each other.
Arm across his face, he runs off. Years go by.

Read the entire poem here.

See also Sarah Manguso’s profile of Jack Gilbert on the Poetry Foundation site.

Contributed by Irene Hsu, Stanford University ’17