Wednesday, January 08, 2014

"All your life you wait for the propitious time"

Landscape by Louise Gluck

Time passes, turning everything to ice.
Under the ice, the future stirred
If you fell into it, you died

It was a time
of waiting, of suspended action.

I lived in the present, which was
that part of the future you could see.
The past floated above my head, 
like the sun and moon, visible but never reachable.

It was a time
governed by contradictions, as in
I felt nothing and
I was afraid.

Winter emptied the trees, filled them again with snow.
Because I couldn't feel, snow fell, the lake froze over.
Because I was afraid, I didn't move;
my breath was white, a description of silence.

Time passed, and some of it became this.
And some of it simply evaporated;
you could see it float above the white trees
forming particles of ice.

All your life you wait for the propitious time.
Then the propitious time 
reveals itself as action taken.

I watched the past move, a line of clouds moving
from left to right or right to left,
depending on the wind. Some days

there was no wind, The clouds seemed
to stay where they were,
like a painting of the sea, more still than real.

Some days the lake was a sheet of glass.
Under the glass, the future made
demure, inviting sounds;
you had to tense yourself so as not to listen.

Time passed; you got to see a piece of it.
The years it took with it were years of winter;
they wold not be missed. Some days

there were no clouds, as though
the sources of the past had vanished. The world

was bleached, like a negative; the light passed
directly through it. Then
the image faded.

Above the world
there was only blue, blue everywhere.


Poem by Louise Gluck from The Best of the Best American Poetry; 25th Anniversary Edition, Kindle pages 76-78.

I cannot recommend this book too highly. It contains enough fine poems to sustain you for a long time. Not much of it is as relentlessly bleak as this; it might be bleak, but it feels genuine to me, and clearly observed. Although I am basically a cheerful person, Louise Gluck is one of my very favorite poets, The accomplishments of her many books of poems deserve as much attention as you can give them. They are widely available; she is not one of the "secret" great poets who can be hard to find. Note in this poem the varied lengths of short stanzas, and the simple clear vocabulary. 

Photo note; I took this on the trip west, when we had stopped to let the dogs out, just off a freeway interchange, Sun through trees, what could be more beautiful???

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