Retreating Light

by electricgenizah

Creation has brought you
great excitement, as I knew it would,
as it does in the beginning.
And I am free to do as I please now,
to attend to other things, in confidence
you have no need of me anymore.

Louise Glück 

This is one of many persona poems from The Wild Iris. Here Glück writes in the voice of God – a God whom I initially imagined as a tired and put-upon mother, or the artist-as-mother who would perhaps like some time to be left to her own devices and write a story that isn’t for children. She’s impatient, but ultimately well-intentioned: she wants to see her children “like independent beings….dreaming by the open window / holding the pencils I gave you / until the summer morning disappears into writing.”

God here is somewhat like the Kabbalistic notion of God who withdraws from the world so that there is room for other beings, other wills to exist. God-as-artist is the deus absconditus, the hidden God, who steps aside to let humans to take over the creative work.

 

sally-mannThere’s something about the portrait of humans/children in the poem that reminds me of the photography of Sally Mann. The children in her famous family photographs have a combination of almost-adult knowing and a kind of raw innocence. They are both otherworldly, yet not rapidly becoming worldly….we can only hope they will not become merely tired consumers of this world, but participants in crafting beauty.

 

Retreating Light

You were always very young children,
always waiting for a story.
And I’d been through it all too many times;
I was tired of telling stories.
So I gave you the pencil and paper.
I gave you pens made of reeds
I had gathered myself, afternoons in the dense meadows.
I told you, write your own story.

After all those years of listening
I thought you’d know
what a story was.

All you could do was weep.
You wanted everything told to you
and nothing thought through yourselves.

Then I realized you couldn’t think
with any real boldness or passion;
you hadn’t had your own lives yet,
your own tragedies.
So I gave you lives, I gave you tragedies,
because apparently tools alone weren’t enough.

You will never know how deeply
it pleases me to see you sitting there
like independent beings,
to see you dreaming by the open window,
holding the pencils I gave you
until the summer morning disappears into writing.

Creation has brought you
great excitement, as I knew it would,
as it does in the beginning.
And I am free to do as I please now,
to attend to other things, in confidence
you have no need of me anymore.

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