By Louise Glück b. 1943 Louise Gluck

Child waking up in a dark room   
screaming I want my duck back, I want my duck back   

in a language nobody understands in the least —

There is no duck.

But the dog, all upholstered in white plush —
the dog is right there in the crib next to him.

Years and years — that’s how much time passes.   
All in a dream. But the duck —
no one knows what happened to that.


They’ve  just met, now   
they’re sleeping near an open window.

Partly to wake them, to assure them   
that what they remember of  the night is correct,   
now light needs to enter the room,

also to show them the context in which this occurred:   
socks half  hidden under a dirty mat,   
quilt decorated with green leaves —

the sunlight specifying   
these but not other objects,   
setting boundaries, sure of  itself, not arbitrary,

then lingering, describing   
each thing in detail,   
fastidious, like a composition in English,   
even a little blood on the sheets —


Afterward, they separate for the day.   
Even later, at a desk, in the market,   
the manager not satisfied with the figures he’s given,   
the berries moldy under the topmost layer —

so that one withdraws from the world
even as one continues to take action in it —

You get home, that’s when you notice the mold.   
Too late, in other words.

As though the sun blinded you for a moment.

Source: Poetry (February 2008).


This poem originally appeared in the February 2008 issue of Poetry magazine

February 2008
 Louise  Glück


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. Her poems are frequently described as “spare.” James K. Robinson in Contemporary Women Poets also . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Men & Women, Family & Ancestors

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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