Louise Gluck




Youth

My sister and I at two ends of the sofa,
reading (I suppose) English novels.
The television on; various schoolbooks open,
or places marked with sheets of lined paper.
Euclid, Pythagorus. As though we had looked into
the origin of thought and preferred novels.

Sad sounds of our growing up—
twilight of cellos. No trace
of a flute, a piccolo. And it seemed at the time
almost impossible to conceive of any of it
as evolving or malleable.

Sad sounds. Anecdotes
that were really still lives.
The pages of the novels turning;
the two dogs snoring quietly.

And from the kitchen,
sounds of our mother,
smell of rosemary, of lamb roasting.

A world in process
of shifting, of being made or dissolved,
and yet we didn’t live that way;
all of us lived our lives
as the simultaneous ritualized enactment
of a great principle, something
felt but not understood.
And the remarks we made were like lines in a play,
spoken with conviction but not from choice.

A principle, a terrifying familial will
that implied opposition to change, to variation,
a refusal even to ask questions—

Now that the world begins
to shift and eddy around us, only now
when it no longer exists.
It has become the present: unending and without form.