Louise Glück

Descent to the Valley

I found the years of the climb upward
difficult, filled with anxiety.
I didn’t doubt my capacities:
rather, as I moved toward it,
I feared the future, the shape of which
I perceived. I saw
the shape of a human life:
on the one side,
always upward and forward
into the light, on the other side,
downward into the mists of uncertainty.
All eagerness undermined by knowledge.

I have found it otherwise.
The light of the pinnacle, the light that was,
theoretically, the goal of the climb,
proves to have been poignantly abstract:
my mind, in its ascent,
was entirely given over to detail, never
perception of form, my eyes
nervously attending to footing.

How sweet my life now
in its descent to the valley,
the valley itself not mist-covered
but fertile and tranquil.
So that for the first time I find myself
able to look ahead, able to look at the world,
even to move toward it.