Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Why there are poets

I received very sad news today that the wife of my oldest client died this morning. Mrs. Gilbert lived a long and happy life, filled with people who loved her very much. I include myself in that number although I knew her only in this last decade.

Mrs. Gilbert was a lady in the best meaning of the word.  She was stylish and smart.  She had a wicked sense of humor and a glint in her eye, particularly when I talked to Mr. Gilbert, Richard, my client.  Richard Gilbert is a man of Madison Avenue. Never met a problem without a solution, exuded optimism at every turn, gung-ho to the max.  "Now Richard, listen to Janet" was the phrase I came to depend on during the editing of Richard's book MARCHING UP MADISON AVENUE.

Mr. and Mrs Gilbert met me when I was a wet behind the ears agent. They took me to lunch in places I could never hope to afford on my own back then.  They believed in me although there was no logical reason to do so.  When I signed Richard, I'd sold one book.  But that was how they were. They took their measure of you, and trusted you to do right by them.  I'm one of hundreds of people who count Richard Gilbert as the first person to give them a professional chance.

And, I did sell the book.  And we did celebrate.  But I knew the clock was ticking. No one lives forever.  When the call came this morning I knew instantly what the bad news was.

The only thing that says exactly what I feel right now is Jane Kenyon's marvelous poem:


There's just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.
And how can you not forgive?

You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basket maker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.

It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.

I am very sad Mrs. Gilbert has left us; but the sadness is tempered by how grateful I am to have known her and counted her as a friend, and ally.


Jane Lebak said...

I'm sorry for your loss. May perpetual light shine upon her, and may she rest in peace.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post, Janet. Thanks for sharing. And sorry about your loss.

Sarah W said...

I'm so sorry. She sounds like a true lady and a good friend.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry for your loss, Janet and Mr. Gilbert's, as well. They sounded like a great couple.

Mags said...

I'm so sorry.

jesse said...

She sounds like a wonderful woman. I'm sorry for your loss.

Michael G-G said...

Amen, Jane Kenyon. Condolences to you, Janet, and to Mrs. Gilbert's friends and family.

David said...

I am happy there were many who loved her so much. May they take comfort in knowing our happiness is not just measured by how much we love, but how much we are loved in turn. And so in loving, we are allowing a person to be doubly happy--to share in reflected love. That is a wonderful life.

Tonight I am thinking of a man I do not know. Much empathy.

Trisha said...

Rest in peace Mrs. Gilbert - she sounds like she was a lot of fun :)

Fanfreakingtastic Flower said...

I am sorry for your loss, and I thank you for sharing that poem.

It made me cry.

Stacy said...

My condolences. It sounds like she had a full life.

JS said...

Sad news. I fell in love with Mrs. Gilbert when reading Marching Up Madison Avenue--Mr. Gilbert's love letter to her at the end of the book touched me so deeply--so I am sorry to hear of her loss.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

There is no accounting for happiness,
like the flickering blue light of a laptop screen
during the silent part of night
when despair and discouragement mate with loneliness.
Your words, my dear Janet, reach through space
and tell me my words have value.

We take our measure of you and trust you.
We may never meet but you do right by us.
That is why we read. That is why we post.
That is why they called you friend.

readingkidsbooks said...

Condolences to you, Mr. Gilbert, & the Gilbert family. If your post is any indication, Mrs. Gilbert is a lady who will be missed my many.

Pamala Knight said...

My most heartfelt condolences on the loss of your friend. The Gilberts sound like the kind of people who touch lives and leave a lasting impression. In other words, the best kind.

And Happiness by Jane Kenyon is one of my absolute favorite poems. She's genius, plain and simple.

Anonymous said...

This made me burst into tears -- and I didn't know Mrs. Gilbert. Beautiful post and a great tribute. It sounds like she was a lovely, unique person.

I'm sorry for your loss. Getting news like that is so very difficult.

Thank you for sharing this and the poem. ~Ali


She sounds like an amazing woman, and that poem is unfathomably beautiful.

You're in my thoughts & prayers, as is the Gilbert family.


Marjorie said...

May Mrs. Gilbert rest in peace.

Joyce Tremel said...

I am so sorry for your loss. This was a wonderful tribute. It sounds like she was an amazing woman and friend.

Margaret Yang said...

How beautiful that poets give us voice when in our grief, we have none.

I am sorry for your loss.

Becky Mahoney said...

What a beautiful tribute. I'm so sorry for your loss, Janet.

Anne Gallagher said...

Thank you for this moving tribute to your friend. My deepest condolences to you and the Gilbert family. Godspeed, Mrs. Gilbert.

Leona said...

Beautiful. Thank you for sharing with us. Sorry for your loss.

ryan field said...

I read his book and left a rare (for me) Amazon review a while ago.

Sounds like his wife was a classy lady.

AKDD said...

Lovely and heartbreaking. how fortunate you are to have known her.

Patty Blount said...

Oh, Janet. What a beautiful post. I'm so sorry for your loss and am keeping all in my prayers.