Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wednesday Poetry: "Harvest," by Louise Glück

So: I've recently returned to Newark, New Jersey, after a month spent in Pennsylvania. It was a difficult period of time, with emotional highs and lows--but that's hardly the topic for today's post, which I hope marks a return to the normalcy of these jottings that I had [once again] achieved at the start of June.

We'll start off slow, with a poem that explores the relationships between the living and the dead, between lessons and practicing that knowledge. In "Harvest," Louise Glück juxtaposes gathering food to sustain oneself against the inevitable death of the plants, spurring one life while uprooting another. But it's neither entirely good nor entirely bad; this poem suggests that the strength we draw from harvests (either the literal kind or the metaphorical reaping of wisdom from the fields of our forebears' experiences and tales) is at once a gift and a curse. We are cursed, in that we have lost that source; we are fortunate, in that we carry those fruits within. Yet, we exist precisely because of this conundrum.

"Harvest," by Louise Glück

It grieves me to think of you in the past--

Look at you, blindly clinging to earth
as though it were the vineyards of heaven
while the fields go up in flames around you--

Ah, little ones, how unsubtle you are:
it is at once the gift and the torment.

If what you fear in death
is punishment beyond this, you need not
fear death:

how many times must I destroy my own creation
to teach you
this is your punishment:

with one gesture I established you
in time and in paradise.

(You can find "Harvest" and many other poems in Glück's collection The Wild Iris.)


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