Today, a poem by Louise Gluck, words that perfectly encapsulate what I’d really like to say when people ask, “how are you?” But then one does not usually spout poetry when asked how they are, although I might start doing just that. No longer a believer in signs, or even in courage (is it heedlessness? Ignorance? Stubbornness?) Is it courage that helps us live with loss? I don’t think so. It’s the pacing, the walking, the pretending to be doing something else, and then the silence, the empty hands open, the moving on, signless. This great still song at the center of everything – simple, strong notes beating fire.


You want to know how I spend my time?

I walk the front lawn, pretending

to be weeding. You ought to know

I’m never weeding, on my knees, pulling

clumps of clover from the flower beds: in fact

I’m looking for courage, for some evidence

my life will change, though

it takes forever, checking

each clump for the symbolic

leaf, and soon the summer is ending, already

the leaves are turning, always the sick trees

going first, the dying turning

brilliant yellow, while a few dark birds perform

their curfew of music. You want to see my hands?

As empty now as at the first note.

Or was the point always

to continue without a sign?

From Wild Iris (Ecco Press, 1992)

3 responses to “Matins

  1. A powerful poem. It IS simply the continuing ~ with open hands. Thank you for posting this, Emily.

  2. Genevieve Steidtmann

    This poem is really beautiful. I love how stark and how honest it feels even as it speaks to hiding behind a different reality.

    Sending my love in your direction, Emily (and Rick and Ronan).

  3. I’d always have been inclined to say this is about the “Search for Meaning” (yes, in caps). Now I’m not so sure, Ronan me boy.

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