after Louise Glück

Last week I posted a poem by Louise Glück, who won the Nobel Prize, but I wrote this homage long before that happened–earlier this year, really, thinking about the virus:

October

         after Louise Glück

Aren’t the days skimping
on light again,
mornings dark
and darker

doesn’t the time change soon,
shifting the scant light

doesn’t the chill in the air
intensify now

doesn’t it remind you
how everything slows
withers

doesn’t the garden
yield its last sweet tomato
its last cucumber

the basil turns brown
overnight, few eggs
in the nests

doesn’t it seem like this end
might be the end

Meryl Natchez

And the winner is…

Louise Glück won the Nobel Prize in literature this week, and I’m so pleased. I really admire her work. And each book is different. Here’s a sample, from Averno.

October (section 1)

Is it winter again, is it cold again,
didn’t Frank just slip on the ice,
didn’t he heal, weren’t the spring seeds planted

didn’t the night end, didn’t the melting ice flood the narrow gutters

wasn’t my body rescued, wasn’t it safe

didn’t the scar form, invisible above the injury

terror and cold,
didn’t they just end, wasn’t the back garden harrowed and planted—

I remember how the earth felt, red and dense, in stiff rows, weren’t the seeds planted, didn’t vines climb the south wall

I can’t hear your voice
for the wind’s cries, whistling over the bare ground

I no longer care what sound it makes

when was I silenced, when did it first seem pointless to describe that sound

what it sounds like can’t change what it is—

didn’t the night end, wasn’t the earth safe when it was planted

didn’t we plant the seeds,
weren’t we necessary to the earth,

the vines, were they harvested?

Derek Mahon

For those of you who follow such things, the Irish poet, Derek Mahon, died this week. He was 78.  I’ve posted a poem of his before (one that they included in his NY Times obituary, as it happens), but this one if also a favorite, though a very different tone.

Afterlives

(for James Simmons)

          1
I wake in a dark flat
To the soft roar of the world.
Pigeons neck on the white
Roofs as I draw the curtains
And look out over London
Rain-fresh in the morning light.
This is our element, the bright
Reason on which we rely
For the long-term solutions.
The orators yap, and guns
Go off in a back street;
But the faith doesn’t die
That in our time these things
Will amaze the literate children
In their non-sectarian schools
And the dark places be
Ablaze with love and poetry
When the power of good prevails.
What middle-class shits we are
To imagine for one second
That our privileged ideals
Are divine wisdom, and the dim
Forms that kneel at noon
In the city not ourselves.
          2
I am going home by sea
For the first time in years.
Somebody thumbs a guitar
On the dark deck, while a gull
Dreams at the masthead,
The moon-splashed waves exult.
At dawn the ship trembles, turns
In a wide arc to back
Shuddering up the grey lough
Past lightship and buoy,
Slipway and dry dock
Where a naked bulb burns;
And I step ashore in a fine rain
To a city so changed
By five years of war
I scarcely recognize
The places I grew up in,
The faces that try to explain.
But the hills are still the same
Grey-blue above Belfast.
Perhaps if I’d stayed behind
And lived it bomb by bomb
I might have grown up at last
And learnt what is meant by home.
Derek Mahon