Louise Gluck




Metamorphosis

1. Night
The angel of death flies 
low over my father’s bed. 
Only my mother sees. She and my father 
are alone in the room.

She bends over him to touch 
his hand, his forehead. She is 
so used to mothering 
that now she strokes his body 
as she would the other children’s, 
first gently, then 
inured to suffering.

Nothing is any different.
Even the spot on the lung 
was always there.

2. Metamorphosis
My father has forgotten me 
in the excitement of dying. 
Like a child who will not eat, 
he takes no notice of anything.

I sit at the edge of his bed 
while the living circle us 
like so many tree stumps.

Once, for the smallest 
fraction of an instant, I thought 
he was alive in the present again; 
then he looked at me 
as a blind man stares 
straight into the sun, since 
whatever it could do to him 
is done already.

Then his flushed face 
turned away from the contact.

3. For My Father
I’m going to live without you 
as I learned once 
to live without my mother. 
You think I don’t remember that? 
I’ve spent my whole life trying to remember.

Now, after so much solitude, 
death doesn’t frighten me, 
not yours, nor mine either. 
And those words, the last time, 
have no power over me. I know 
intense love always leads to mourning.

For once, your body doesn’t frighten me. 
From time to time, I run my hand over your face 
lightly, like a dust cloth. 
What can shock me now? I feel 
no coldness that can’t be explained. 
Against your cheek, my hand is warm 
and full of tenderness.