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Best Famous Louise Gluck Poems

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Written by Louise Gluck | Create an image from this poem

Odysseus Decision

 The great man turns his back on the island.
Now he will not die in paradise nor hear again the lutes of paradise among the olive trees, by the clear pools under the cypresses.
Time begins now, in which he hears again that pulse which is the narrative sea, ar dawn when its pull is stongest.
What has brought us here will lead us away; our ship sways in the tined harbor water.
Now the spell is ended.
Giove him back his life, sea that can only move forward.

Written by Louise Gluck | Create an image from this poem

First Memory

 Long ago, I was wounded.
I lived to revenge myself against my father, not for what he was-- for what I was: from the beginning of time, in childhood, I thought that pain meant I was not loved.
It meant I loved.
Written by Louise Gluck | Create an image from this poem


 What does the horse give you
That I cannot give you?

I watch you when you are alone,
When you ride into the field behind the dairy,
Your hands buried in the mare's
Dark mane.
Then I know what lies behind your silence: Scorn, hatred of me, of marriage.
Still, You want me to touch you; you cry out As brides cry, but when I look at you I see There are no children in your body.
Then what is there? Nothing, I think.
Only haste To die before I die.
In a dream, I watched you ride the horse Over the dry fields and then Dismount: you two walked together; In the dark, you had no shadows.
But I felt them coming toward me Since at night they go anywhere, They are their own masters.
Look at me.
You think I don't understand? What is the animal If not passage out of this life?
Written by Louise Gluck | Create an image from this poem

A Fantasy

 I'll tell you something: every day
people are dying.
And that's just the beginning.
Every day, in funeral homes, new widows are born, new orphans.
They sit with their hands folded, trying to decide about this new life.
Then they're in the cemetery, some of them for the first time.
They're frightened of crying, sometimes of not crying.
Someone leans over, tells them what to do next, which might mean saying a few words, sometimes throwing dirt in the open grave.
And after that, everyone goes back to the house, which is suddenly full of visitors.
The widow sits on the couch, very stately, so people line up to approach her, sometimes take her hand, sometimes embrace her.
She finds something to say to everbody, thanks them, thanks them for coming.
In her heart, she wants them to go away.
She wants to be back in the cemetery, back in the sickroom, the hospital.
She knows it isn't possible.
But it's her only hope, the wish to move backward.
And just a little, not so far as the marriage, the first kiss.
Written by Louise Gluck | Create an image from this poem


 There was an apple tree in the yard --
this would have been
forty years ago -- behind,
only meadows.
Drifts of crocus in the damp grass.
I stood at that window: late April.
Spring flowers in the neighbor's yard.
How many times, really, did the tree flower on my birthday, the exact day, not before, not after? Substitution of the immutable for the shifting, the evolving.
Substitution of the image for relentless earth.
What do I know of this place, the role of the tree for decades taken by a bonsai, voices rising from the tennis courts -- Fields.
Smell of the tall grass, new cut.
As one expects of a lyric poet.
We look at the world once, in childhood.
The rest is memory.

Written by Louise Gluck | Create an image from this poem


 The stars are soft as flowers, and as near;
The hills are webs of shadow, slowly spun;
No separate leaf or single blade is here-
All blend to one.
No moonbeam cuts the air; a sapphire light Rolls lazily.
and slips again to rest.
There is no edged thing in all this night, Save in my breast.
Written by Louise Gluck | Create an image from this poem


 Do you know what I was, how I lived? You know
what despair is; then
winter should have meaning for you.
I did not expect to survive, earth suppressing me.
I didn't expect to waken again, to feel in damp earth my body able to respond again, remembering after so long how to open again in the cold light of earliest spring-- afraid, yes, but among you again crying yes risk joy in the raw wind of the new world.
Written by Louise Gluck | Create an image from this poem

The Garden

 How vainly men themselves amaze
To win the Palm, the Oke, or Bayes;
And their uncessant Labours see
Crown'd from some single Herb or Tree,
Whose short and narrow verged Shade
Does prudently their Toyles upbraid;
While all Flow'rs and all Trees do close
To weave the Garlands of repose.
Fair quiet, have I found thee here, And Innocence thy Sister dear! Mistaken long, I sought you then In busie Companies of Men.
Your sacred Plants, if here below, Only among the Plants will grow.
Society is all but rude, To this delicious Solitude.
No white nor red was ever seen So am'rous as this lovely green.
Fond Lovers, cruel as their Flame, Cut in these Trees their Mistress name.
Little, Alas, they know, or heed, How far these Beauties Hers exceed! Fair Trees! where s'eer you barkes I wound, No Name shall but your own be found.
When we have run our Passions heat, Love hither makes his best retreat.
The Gods, that mortal Beauty chase, The Gods, that mortal Beauty chase, Apollo hunted Daphne so, Only that She might Laurel grow.
And Pan did after Syrinx speed, Not as a Nymph, but for a Reed.
What wond'rous Life in this I lead! Ripe Apples drop about my head; The Luscious Clusters of the Vine Upon my Mouth do crush their Wine; The Nectaren, and curious Peach, Into my hands themselves do reach; Stumbling on Melons, as I pass, Insnar'd with Flow'rs, I fall on Grass.
Mean while the Mind, from pleasure less, Withdraws into its happiness: The Mind, that Ocean where each kind Does streight its own resemblance find; Yet it creates, transcending these, Far other Worlds, and other Seas; Annihilating all that's made To a green Thought in a green Shade.
Here at the Fountains sliding foot, Or at some Fruit-tress mossy root, Casting the Bodies Vest aside, My Soul into the boughs does glide: There like a Bird it sits, and sings, Then whets, and combs its silver Wings; And, till prepar'd for longer flight, Waves in its Plumes the various Light.
Such was that happy Garden-state, While Man there walk'd without a Mate: After a Place so pure, and sweet, What other Help could yet be meet! But 'twas beyond a Mortal's share To wander solitary there: Two Paradises 'twere in one To live in Paradise alone.
How well the skilful Gardner drew Of flow'rs and herbes this Dial new; Where from above the milder Sun Does through a fragrant Zodiack run; And, as it works, th' industrious Bee Computes its time as well as we.
How could such sweet and wholsome Hours Be reckon'd but with herbs and flow'rs!
Written by Louise Gluck | Create an image from this poem

Early Darkness

 How can you say
earth should give me joy? Each thing
born is my burden; I cannot succeed
with all of you.
And you would like to dictate to me, you would like to tell me who among you is most valuable, who most resembles me.
And you hold up as an example the pure life, the detachment you struggle to acheive-- How can you understand me when you cannot understand yourselves? Your memory is not powerful enough, it will not reach back far enough-- Never forget you are my children.
You are not suffering because you touched each other but because you were born, because you required life separate from me.
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Parable Of The Dove

 A dove lived in a village.
When it opened its mouth sweetness came out, sound like a silver light around the cherry bough.
But the dove wasn't satisfied.
It saw the villagers gathered to listen under the blossoming tree.
It didn't think: I am higher that they are.
It wanted to wealk among them, to experience the violence of human feeling, in part for its song's sake.
So it became human.
It found passion, it found violence, first conflated, then as separate emotions and these were not contained by music.
Thus its song changed, the sweet notes of its longing to become human soured and flattened.
Then the world drew back; the mutant fell from love as from the cherry branch, it fell stained with the bloody fruit of the tree.
So it is true after all, not merely a rule of art: change your form and you change your nature.
And time does this to us.