Louise Glück


They’re not grown up—more like a boy and girl, really.
School’s over. It’s the best part of the summer, when it’s still beginning—
the sun’s shining, but the heat isn’t intense yet.
And freedom hasn’t gotten boring.

So you can spend the whole day, all of it, wandering in the meadow.
The meadow goes on indefinitely, and the village keeps getting more and
        more faint—

It seems a strange position, being very young.
They have this thing everyone wants and they don’t want—
but they want to keep it anyway; it’s all they can trade on.

When they’re by themselves like this, these are the things they talk about.
How time for them doesn’t race.
It’s like the reel breaking at the movie theater. They stay anyway—
mainly, they just don’t want to leave. But till the reel is fixed,
the old one just gets popped back in,
and all of a sudden you’re back to long ago in the movie—
the hero hasn’t even met the heroine. He’s still at the factory,
he hasn’t begun to go bad. And she’s wandering around the docks, already bad.
But she never meant it to happen. She was good, then it happened to her,
like a bag pulled over her head.

The sky’s completely blue, so the grass is dry.
They’ll be able to sit with no trouble.
They sit, they talk about everything—then they eat their picnic.
They put the food on the blanket, so it stays clean.
They’ve always done it this way; they take the grass themselves.

The rest—how two people can lie down on the blanket—
they know about it but they’re not ready for it.
They know people who’ve done it, as a kind of game or trial—
then you say, no, wrong time, I think I’ll just keep being a child.
But your body doesn’t listen. It knows everything now,
it says you’re not a child, you haven’t been a child for a long time.

Their thinking is, stay away from change. It’s an avalanche—
all the rocks sliding down the mountain, and the child standing underneath
just gets killed.

They sit in the best place, under the poplars.
And they talk—it must be hours now, the sun’s in a different place.
About school, about people they both know,
about being adult, about how you knew what your dreams were.

They used to play games, but that’s stopped now—too much touching.
They only touch each other when they fold the blanket.

They know this in each other.
That’s why it isn’t talked about.
Before they do anything like that, they’ll need to know more—
in fact, everything that can happen. Until then, they’ll just watch
and stay children.

Today she’s folding the blanket alone, to be safe.
And he looks away—he pretends to be too lost in thought to help out.

They know that at some point you stop being children, and at that point
you become strangers. It seems unbearably lonely.

When they get home to the village, it’s nearly twilight.
It’s been a perfect day; they talk about this,
about when they’ll have a chance to have a picnic again.

They walk through the summer dusk,
not holding hands but still telling each other everything.