Louise Glück


All week they’ve been by the sea again
and the sound of the sea colors everything.
Blue sky fills the window.
But the only sound is the sound of the waves pounding the shore—
angry. Angry at something. Whatever it is
must be why he’s turned away. Angry, though he’d never hit her,
never say a word, probably.

So it’s up to her to get the answer some other way,
from the sea, maybe, or the gray clouds suddenly
rising above it. The smell of the sea is in the sheets,
the smell of sun and wind, the hotel smell, fresh and sweet
because they’re changed every day.

He never uses words. Words, for him, are for making arrangements,
for doing business. Never for anger, never for tenderness.

She strokes his back. She puts her face up against it,
even though it’s like putting your face against a wall.

And the silence between them is ancient: it says
these are the boundaries.

He isn’t sleeping, not even pretending to sleep.
His breathing’s not regular: he breathes in with reluctance;
he doesn’t want to commit himself to being alive.
And he breathes out fast, like a king banishing a servant.

Beneath the silence, the sound of the sea,
the sea’s violence spreading everywhere, not finished, not finished,
his breath driving the waves—

But she knows who she is and she knows what she wants.
As long as that’s true, something so natural can’t hurt her.