Fugue :: Louise Glück

1.
I was the man because I was taller.
My sister decided
when we should eat.
From time to time, she’d have a baby.

2.
Then my soul appeared.
Who are you, I said.
And my soul said,
I am your soul, the winsome stranger.

3.
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.

4.
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.

5.
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.

6.
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.

7.
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.

8.
Well, we are here to do something about that.

(In a German accent.)

9.
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.

10.
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.

11.
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.

12.
My childhood: closed to me. Or is it
under the mulch — fertile.

But very dark. Very hidden.

13.
In the dark, my soul said
I am your soul.

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

14.
And it said, you must trust me.

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

15.
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.

16.
It is coming back to me.

Pear tree. Apple tree.

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

17.
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.

18.
Who is “you”? As in

“Are you tired of invisible pain?”

19.
Like a small bird sealed off from daylight:

that was my childhood.

20.
I was the man because I was taller.

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

21.
Silence in the nursery,
the consulting garden. Then:

What does the harp suggest?

22.
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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