Louise Gluck




Ancient Text

How deeply fortunate my life, my every prayer
heard by the angels.

I asked for the earth; I received earth, like so much
mud in the face.

I prayed for relief from suffering; I received suffering.
Who can say my prayers were not heard? They were

translated, edited—and if certain
of the important words were left out or misunderstood, a crucial

article deleted, still they were taken in, studied like ancient texts.
Perhaps they were ancient texts, re-created

in the vernacular of a particular period.
And as my life was, in a sense, increasingly given over to prayer,

so the task of the angels was, I believe, to master this language
in which they were not as yet entirely fluent or confident.

And if I felt, in my youth, rejected, abandoned,
I came to feel, in the end, that we were, all of us,

intended as teachers, possibly
teachers of the deaf, kind helpers whose virtuous patience

is sustained by an abiding passion.
I understood at last! We were the aides and helpers,

our masterpieces strangely useful, like primers.
How simple life became then; how clear, in the childish errors,

the perpetual labor: night and day, angels were
discussing my meanings. Night and day, I revised my appeals,

making each sentence better and clearer, as though one might
elude forever all misconstruction. How flawless they became—

impeccable, beautiful, continuously misread. If I was, in a sense,
an obsessive staggering through time, in another sense

I was a winged obsessive, my moonlit
feathers were paper. I lived hardly at all among men and women;

I spoke only to angels. How fortunate my days,
how charged and meaningful the nights’ continuous silence and opacity.