Humidifier

By Louise Glück b. 1943 Louise Gluck

—After Robert Pinsky

Defier of closed space, such as the head, opener
Of the sealed passageways, so that
Sunlight entering the nose can once again

Exit the ear, vaporizer, mist machine, whose
Soft hiss sounds like another human being

But less erratic, more stable, or, if not like a human being,
Carried by one, by my mother to the sick chamber
Of my childhood — as Freud said,

Why are you always sick, Louise? his cigar
Confusing mist with smoke, interfering
With healing—Embodied

Summoner of these ghosts, white plastic tub with your elegant
Clear tub, the water sanitized by boiling,
Sterile, odorless,

In my mother’s absence
Run by me, the one machine

I understand: what
Would life be if we could not buy
Objects to care for us

And bear them home, away from the druggists’ pity,
If we could not carry in our own arms
Alms, alchemy, to the safety of our bedrooms,
If there were no more

Sounds in the night, continuous
Hush, hush of warm steam, not
Like human breath though regular, if there were nothing in the world

More hopeful than the self,
Soothing it, wishing it well.

Source: Poetry (July 2005).

 Louise  Glück

Biography

Louise Glück is considered by many to be one of America’s most talented contemporary poets. The poet Robert Hass has called her “one of the purest and most accomplished lyric poets now writing,” and her poetry is noted for its technical precision, sensitivity and insight into loneliness, family relationships, divorce, and death. Frequently described as “spare,” James K. Robinson in Contemporary Women Poets also noted that . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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