Louise Gluck




Nostos

There was an apple tree in the yard —
this would have been
forty years ago—behind,
only meadow. Drifts
of crocus in the damp grass.
I stood at that window:
late April. Spring
flowers in the neighbor’s yard.
How many times, really, did the tree
flower on my birthday,
the exact day, not
before, not after? Substitution
of the immutable
for the shifting, the evolving.
Substitution of the image
for relentless earth. What
do I know of this place,
the role of the tree for decades
taken by a bonsai, voices
rising from the tennis courts—
Fields. Smell of the tall grass, new cut.
As one expects of a lyric poet.
We look at the world once, in childhood.
The rest is memory.


Nostos is a theme used in Ancient Greek literature, which includes an epic hero returning home by sea. 
In Ancient Greek society, it was deemed a high level of heroism or greatness for those who managed to return. 
This journey is usually very extensive and includes being shipwrecked in an unknown location and going through 
certain trials that test the hero. The return isn't just about returning home physically but also about retaining 
certain statuses and retaining your identity upon arrival.