A Fable

Two women with
the same claim
came to the feet of
the wise king. Two women,
but only one baby.
The king knew
someone was lying.
What he said was
Let the child be
cut in half; that way
no one will go
empty-handed. He
drew his sword.
Then, of the two
women, one
renounced her share:
this was
the sign, the lesson.
you saw your mother
torn between two daughters:
what could you do
to save her but be
willing to destroy
yourself—she would know
who was the rightful child,
the one who couldn’t bear
to divide the mother.

"A Fable" by Louise Glück, from Ararat. Copyright © 1990 by Louise Glück. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, www.harpercollins.com.
Source: Ararat (The Ecco Press, 1990)
More Poems by Louise Glück