Sunday, July 29, 2007

Louise Glück: Gretel in Darkness

For the next week or so, I will only have sporadic access to the computer, so my posts may be a bit more random than my usual Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule.

Here is one of my favorite poems by Louise Glück. It's from her book The House on Marshland, which is stunning. It's out of print on its own, but all the poems can be found in the collection: First Four Books Of Poems.

I love this poem for the way she re-imagines the familiar fairy tale. Or rather, further-imagines it. This is Hansel and Gretel, set well after the incident with the witch, the gingerbread house, and the final escape--the witch's head in the oven. Louise Glück puts herself in Gretel's place. What would it really have been like? The result is startling and lovely and very chilling.

Gretel in Darkness

This is the world we wanted.
All who would have seen us dead
are dead. I hear the witch's cry
break in the moonlight through a sheet
of sugar: God rewards.
Her tongue shrivels into gas. . . .

Now, far from women's arms
and memory of women, in our father's hut
we sleep, are never hungry.
Why do I not forget?
My father bars the door, bars harm
from this house, and it is years.

No one remembers. Even you, my brother,
summer afternoons you look at me as though
you meant to leave,
as though it never happened.
But I killed for you. I see armed firs,
the spires of that gleaming kiln--

Nights I turn to you to hold me
but you are not there.
Am I alone? Spies
hiss in the stillness, Hansel,
we are there still and it is real, real,
that black forest and the fire in earnest.


Kate said...

If they're referring to God as a 'she'...I like it!

Anonymous said...

Louise Gluck isn't referring to God as "she". The poem is saying that God rewards and the witch's tongue shrivels to gas after she is pushed into the oven.
Wonderful, brilliant piece of writing! What an idea...the lasting psychological damage an experience like that would cause! No "...happily ever after" there!
I always imagine this being read by someone with a voice like Mercedes McCambridge. Sweet!

Anonymous said...

Trees are for bushes ! >:D

Anonymous said...