Mock Orange by Louise Glück
(The text of the poem can be found here.)
When I first mentioned to Maribou that I was thinking about doing some Louise Glück for the poetry readings, she expressed surprise and said “I would have thought that Louise Glück would be one of the people who would get you to rant for five minutes about how much you hate modern poetry.”
Yeah, but… man. Her stuff is just soooo good. (The Wikipedia biography of Gluck can be found here.)
I suppose that the very first time I read this poem, I might have agreed with Maribou in the first two thirds… but then I got to the line “We were made fools of”. I gasped like I was punched in the stomach. This made me go back and re-read the poem and, suddenly, it read completely different to me.
A short little story that, if it were a movie, would come flying from the clouds into the front yard of a house with downright luminescent white flowers shining in the light of the full moon and we fly into the open bedroom window to see two people failing to make love together but wanting to, oh how they want to, and, like we did, the mock orange wafts through the window as they lie, having failed, together.
Being in love with someone with whom you do not connect, but trying, oh god oh god *TRYING* and then, once again, failing.
I found myself reading through her biographies hoping to find that she’s been happily married and imagining coming up with little stories about her telling her husband “look, I’m just writing this! It’s not about us! It’s not about you!” but, ah, well. That’s not the case. Which makes the poetry even more poignant. She’s writing from the heart and captures flashes and images and makes me say “I have been there.” This poem caught and captured that simply and elegantly and did so like a punch to the gut and it encapsulated that failed relationship from waybackwhen in just 24 lines.
The best poetry can do that.