Louise Gluck

(22 April 1943 / New York / United States)

A Fantasy


I'll tell you something: every day
people are dying. And that's just the beginning.
Every day, in funeral homes, new widows are born,
new orphans. They sit with their hands folded,
trying to decide about this new life.

Then they're in the cemetery, some of them
for the first time. They're frightened of crying,
sometimes of not crying. Someone leans over,
tells them what to do next, which might mean
saying a few words, sometimes
throwing dirt in the open grave.

And after that, everyone goes back to the house,
which is suddenly full of visitors.
The widow sits on the couch, very stately,
so people line up to approach her,
sometimes take her hand, sometimes embrace her.
She finds something to say to everbody,
thanks them, thanks them for coming.

In her heart, she wants them to go away.
She wants to be back in the cemetery,
back in the sickroom, the hospital. She knows
it isn't possible. But it's her only hope,
the wish to move backward. And just a little,
not so far as the marriage, the first kiss.

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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# 439 poem on top 500 Poems


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  • Bronze Star - 7,196 Points Daniel Brick (11/6/2014 7:37:00 PM)

    I agree with Sunprincess - the title does not fit the poem. Louise Gluck is one of very favorite poets. I have followed her poetic career since the volume THE TRIUMPH OF ACHILLES published in 1985. I cannot find any dimension of this poem that suggests fantasy. It seems all of the characters Louise Gluck identifies are confronting the reality of
    of death. Even at the end the widow's memories going back to the first kiss relate to actual events. If someone would argue the title is meant ironic, I cannot see any benefit to the poem from such irony. So I'm with you on this one, Sunprincess; it's puzzling. (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 10,094 Points * Sunprincess * (6/6/2014 4:12:00 PM)

    ...........the title does not suit the poem....this poem is not fantastic...so therefore ~ a fantasy ~ does not work for this poem... a more suitable title could be.....~ reality hits home ~.....or ~ sadness prevails ~........does anyone else agree this poem needs a new title? (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 29 Points Colleen Courtney (5/14/2014 8:56:00 PM)

    So very poignant and all too familiar. Lost many, many in my 48 years. Too many actually. She captures the inner feelings of the widow perfectly. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 182 Points Karen Sinclair (11/6/2012 2:08:00 AM)

    I like the casual start to this piece as if the writer is sharing thoughts over coffee with a friend (to me) a sad reminder that even today people this very day people are going through the unkind routine of this for the very first time.... (Report) Reply

  • Freshman - 1,626 Points Ken E Hall (3/30/2012 12:40:00 AM)

    Parting is such sweet sorrow and as for the thought of the final one I push it from my mind quick as a flash, a sad reality poem+++++10 regards (Report) Reply

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