Louise Gluck




Timor Mortis

Why are you afraid?

A man in a top hat passed under the bedroom window.
I couldn’t have been
more than four at the time.

It was a dream: I saw him
when I was high up, where I should have been
safe from him.

Do you remember your childhood?

When the dream ended
terror remained. I lay in my bed—
my crib maybe.

I dreamed I was kidnapped. That means
I knew what love was,
how it places the soul in jeopardy.
I knew. I substituted my body.

But you were hostage?

I was afraid of love, of being taken away.
Everyone afraid of love is afraid of death.

I pretended indifference
even in the presence of love, in the presence of hunger.
And the more deeply I felt
the less able I was to respond.

Do you remember your childhood?

I understood that the magnitude of these gifts
was balanced by the scope of my rejection.

Do you remember your childhood?

I lay in the forest.
Still, more still than any living creature.
Watching the sun rise.

And I remember once my mother turning away from me
in great anger. Or perhaps it was grief.
Because for all she had given me,
for all her love, I failed to show gratitude.
And I made no sign of understanding.

For which I was never forgiven.