Sunday, October 11, 2020

Louise Glück, "Averno"

Critics who praise the new Nobel Laureate use words like "austere", "unsparing," and "difficult", and she once said that for her writing was "a torment, a place of suffering, harrowing." So, here are some extracts from a poem that very much fits that aesthetic.


You die when your spirit dies. 

Otherwise, you live.
You may not do a good job of it, but you go on–
something you have no choice about.

When I tell this to my children
they pay no attention.
The old people, they think—
this what they always do: talk about things no one can see
to cover up all the brain cells they're losing.
They wink at each other
listen to the old one, talking about the spirit
because he can't remember anymore the world for chair.

It is terrible to be alone.
I don't mean to live alone –— 
to be alone, where no one hears you.

I remember the word for chair,
I want to say—I'm just not interested anymore.

I wake up thinking,
you have to prepare.
Soon the spirit will give up — 
all the chairs in the world won't help you.

I know what they say when I'm out of the room
Should I be seeing someone, should I be taking
one the new drugs for depression.
I can hear them, in whispers, planning how to divide the cost. 

And I want to scream out
you're all of you living in a dream. 

Bad enough, they think, to watch me falling apart
Bad enough without this lecturing they get these days
as though I had any right to this new information. 

Well, they had the same right.
They're living in a dream, and I'm preparing
to be a ghost. 
I want to shout out 

the mist has cleared —
It's like some new life:
you have no stake in the outcome;
you know the outcome. 

Think of it: sixty years sitting in chairs. And now the mortal spirit
seeking so openly, so fearlessly — 

To raise the veil.
To see what you're saying goodbye to.

.   .   .   .

I stood a long time, staring at nothing.
After a bit, I noticed how dark it was, how cold

A long time —I have no idea how long.
Once the earth decides to have no memory
time seems in a way meaningless.
But not to my children. They're after me
to make a will; they're worried the government
will take everything.

They should come with me sometime
to look at this field under the cover of snow.
They whole thing is written out there.

Nothing. I have nothing to give them.

That's the first part.
The second is: I don't want to be burned.


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