Messengers

A poem by Louise Glück:

You have only to wait, they will find you.
The geese flying low over the marsh,
glittering in black water.
They find you.

And the deer–
how beautiful they are,
as though their bodies did not impede them.
Slowly they drift into the open
through bronze panels of sunlight.

Why would they stand so still
if they were not waiting?
Almost motionless, until their cages rust,
the shrubs shiver in the wind,
squat and leafless.

You have only to let it happen:
that cry — release, release — like the moon
wrenched out of the earth and rising
full in its circle of arrows

until they come before you
like dead things, saddled with flesh,
and you above them, wounded and dominant.

Here’s some commentary on the poem, and a brief bio of the poet.

This poem reminds me of a previous one I posted, called “The Animals,” which ends with a call, “Will any come back will one / Saying yes / Saying look carefully yes / We will meet again.” The opening line of this one, “You only have to wait, they will find you.” is almost a continuation of the previous one, in the same way that “Fourth Time Around” is a continuation of “Norweigan Wood (This Bird Has Flown).”  Glück answers the question: you don’t have to follow them, just wait and they will find you—as if to say: you can’t evade them even if you wanted to; the material world is still (and will always be) the limit.

The last stanza alludes to the impending crash, if not to the on-going and ever-intensifying disappointment created by modern humans’ interaction with nature: we stand above the organisims, but only in our own minds, as they appear “like dead things” and we dominate, yes, but by doing so are also “wounded” in the process. The endgame of such a domination will not be pretty.

The first stanza, which uses the image of geese flying over water, reminds me of “There Are Men Too Gentle to Live Among Wolves” by James Kavanaugh. In the dedication to his book of poems, Kavanaugh wrote:

To
      
    A cat named Ralph who makes me laugh
          and feel loved
    And a tired old man who makes me cry
          and feel helpless.    But especially to those

       Who can hear the honking of geese
                above the sound of traffic
       Who can hear the weeping of boys
                above the sound of mortars
       Who refuse to take life as it is—
                because it wasn’t always

who look close enough to see
the hurt hidden in anger,
the fear disguised in arrogance,
the eloquence locked in silence beyond all words,
To those who love the faces in the city.
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