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Autumnal by Louise Glück


by Louise Glück

(from her 1976 book, Descending Figure, The Ecco Press, NY)

Public sorrow, the acquired

gold of the leaf, the falling off,

the prefigured burning of the yield:

which is accomplished. At the lake's edge,

the metal pails are full vats of fire.

So waste is elevated

into beauty. And the scattered dead

unite in one consuming vision of order.

In the end, everything is bare.

Above the cold, receptive earth

the trees bend. Beyond,

the lake shines, placid, giving back

the established blue of heaven.

The word

is bear: you give and give, you empty yourself

into a child. And you survive

the automatic loss. Against inhuman landscape,

the tree remains a figure for grief; its form

is forced accommodation. At the grave,

it is the woman, isn't it, who bends,

the spear useless beside her.

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