Fugue :: Louise Glück

I was the man because I was taller.
My sister decided
when we should eat.
From time to time, she’d have a baby.

Then my soul appeared.
Who are you, I said.
And my soul said,
I am your soul, the winsome stranger.

Our dead sister
waited, undiscovered in my mother’s head.
Our dead sister was neither
a man nor a woman. She was like a soul.

My soul was taken in:
it attached itself to a man.
Not a real man, the man
I pretended to be, playing with my sister.

It is coming back to me — lying on the couch
has refreshed my memory.
My memory is like a basement filled with old papers:
nothing ever changes.

I had a dream: my mother fell out of a tree.
After she fell, the tree died:
it had outlived its function.
My mother was unharmed — her arrows disappeared, her wings
turned to arms. Fire creature: Sagittarius. She finds herself in —

a suburban garden. It is coming back to me.

I put the book aside. What is a soul?
A flag flown
too high on the pole, if you know what I mean.

The body
cowers in the dreamlike underbrush.

Well, we are here to do something about that.

(In a German accent.)

I had a dream: were are at war.
My mother leaves her crossbow in the high grass.

(Sagittarius, the archer.)

My childhood, closed to me forever,
turned gold like an autumn garden,
mulched with a thick layer of salt marsh hay.

A golden bow: a useful gift in wartime.

How heavy it was — no child could pick it up.

Except me: I could pick it up.

Then I was wounded. The bow
was now a harp, its string cutting
deep into my palm. In the dream

it both makes the wound and seals the wound.

My childhood: closed to me. Or is it
under the mulch — fertile.

But very dark. Very hidden.

In the dark, my soul said
I am your soul.

No one can see me; only you —
only you can see me.

And it said, you must trust me.

Meaning: if you move the harp,
you will bleed to death.

Why can’t I cry out?

I should be writing my hand is bleeding,
feeling pain and terror — what
I felt in the dream, as a casualty of war.

It is coming back to me.

Pear tree. Apple tree.

I used to sit there
pulling arrows out of my heart.

Then my soul appeared. It said
just as no one can see me, no one
can see the blood.

Also: no one can see the harp.

Then it said
I can save you. Meaning
this is a test.

Who is “you”? As in

“Are you tired of invisible pain?”

Like a small bird sealed off from daylight:

that was my childhood.

I was the man because I was taller.

But I wasn’t tall —
didn’t I ever look in a mirror?

Silence in the nursery,
the consulting garden. Then:

What does the harp suggest?

I know what you want —
you want Orpheus, you want death.

Orpheus who said “Help me find Eurydice.”

Then the music began, the lament of the soul
watching the body vanish.

[From Averno]

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