What do you yearn for?

Here’s a little poem by Louise Glück that made me think twice…


Suddenly, after you die, those friends
who never agreed about anything
agree about your character.
they’re like a houseful of singers rehearsing
the same score:
you were just, you were kind, you lived a fortunate life.
No harmony. No counterpoint. Except
they’re not performances;
real tears are shed.

Luckily, you’re dead; otherwise
you’d be overcome with revulsion.
but when that’s passed,
when the guests begin filing out, wiping their eyes
because, after a day like this,
shut in with orthodoxy,
the sun’s amazingly bright,
though it’s late afternoon, September –
when the exodus begins,
that’s when you’d feel
pangs of envy.

Your friends the living embrace one another,
gossip a little on the sidewalk
as the sun sinks, and the evening breeze
ruffles the women’s shawls –
this, this, is the meaning of
“a fortunate life”: it means
to exist in the present.


*      *      *

From the beautiful collection:


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