the atrocity of sunsets
x
Pastoral by Louise Glück

The sun rises over the mountain.
Sometimes there’s mist
but the sun’s behind it always
and the mist isn’t equal to it.
The sun burns its way through,
like the mind defeating stupidity.
When the mist clears, you see the meadow.

No one really understands
the savagery of this place,
the way it kills people for no reason,
just to keep in practice.

So people flee—and for awhile, away from here,
they’re exuberant, surrounded by so many choices—

But no signal from earth
will ever reach the sun. Thrash
against that fact, you are lost.

When they come back, they’re worse.
They think they failed in the city,
not that the city doesn’t make good its promises.
They blame their upbringing: youth ended and they’re back,
silent, like their fathers.
Sundays, in summer, they lean against the wall of the clinic,
smoking cigarettes. When they remember,
they pick flowers for their girlfriends—

It makes the girls happy.
They think it’s pretty here, but they miss the city, the afternoons
filled with shopping and talking, what you do
when you have no money…

To my mind, you’re better off if you stay;
that way, dreams don’t damage you.
At dusk, you sit by the window. Wherever you live,
you can see the fields, the river, realities
on which you cannot impose yourself—

To me, it’s safe. The sun rises; the mist
dissipates to reveal
the immense mountain. You can see the peak,
how white it is, even in summer. And the sky’s so blue,
punctuated with small pines
like spears—

When you got tired of walking
you lay down in the grass.
When you got up again, you could see for a moment where you’d been,
the grass was slick there, flattened out
into the shape of a body. When you looked back later,
it was as though you’d never been there at all.

Midafternoon, midsummer. The fields go on forever,
peaceful, beautiful.
Like butterflies with their black markings,
the poppies open.