If You Don’t Answer, Someone Else Will

Louise Gluck
 
 

The advantage of poetry over life is that poetry, if it is sharp enough, may last.

Louis Gluck

October

Section I
 
by Louise Gluck
 

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


When Louise Glück won the 2020 Nobel prize a couple of weeks ago I went, who? It shows my amateur status in literary knowledge that I had never heard of her because they don’t hand out Nobel awards to hacks and rookies. Or do they? Does winning a major award cement your status as a Poet with a capitol P? Not in my opinion. There are no capitol P poets, only capitol P poems and lines of poems and fragments of lines of poems. Capital P’s don’t last very long, they are a sign of their times and tend to fade to lower case through the years.

My love of poetry has nothing to do with literary criticism or awards bestowed on authors, because as I look back on the Nobel award more than 60 years ago, the only people even up for consideration were white men. What is the legacy of awards and their significance when only a tiny minority of poets writing poetry were even considered not that long ago? If a Nobel prize means less 50 years ago, then is it more significant today because women and people of color are taken more seriously in the award’s process or even rise to the top to win?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but the good thing about the announcement is that it prodded me to google Ms. Gluck and read some of her poetry. Enjoyable, hearty, thought provoking fair, I will seek out more of her voice and pay attention when I see her name. Congratulations!


Midnight

by Louise Gluck

Speak to me, aching heart: what
Ridiculous errand are you inventing for yourself
Weeping in the dark garage
With your sack of garbage: it is not your job
To take out the garbage, it is your job
To empty the dishwasher. You are showing off
Again,
Exactly as you did in childhood–where
Is your sporting side, your famous
Ironic detachment? A little moonlight hits
The broken window, a little summer moonlight,
Tender
Murmurs from the earth with its ready
Sweetnesses–
Is this the way you communicate
With your husband, not answering
When he calls, or is this the way the heart
Behaves when it grieves: it wants to be
Alone with the garbage? If I were you,
I’d think ahead. After fifteen years,
His voice could be getting tired; some night
If you don’t answer, someone else will answer.

Published by

A Sonnet Obsession

I am a life-long Minnesotan who resides in Minneapolis. I hope you enjoy my curated selection of sonnets, short poems and nerdy ruminations.

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