Louise Glück

Telemachus’ Kindness

When I was younger I felt
sorry for myself 
compulsively; in practical terms, 
I had no father; my mother
lived at her loom hypothesizing
her husband's erotic life; gradually
I realized no child on that island had
a different story; my trials
were the general rule, common
to all of us, a bond
among us, therefore
with humanity: what 
a life my mother had, without 
compassion for my father's 
suffering, for a soul 
ardent by nature, thus
ravaged by choice, nor had my father
any sense of her courage, subtly
expressed as inaction, being 
himself prone to dramatizing,
to acting out: I found 
I could share these perceptions 
with my closest friends, as they shared 
theirs with me, to test them,
to refine them: as a grown man 
I can look at my parents 
impartially and pity them both: I hope
always to be able to pity them.