The Daily Reading: Poetry by Louise Glück "The Sensual World"

On this summer day still full of promise—when our senses are on high, when we're holding the fall season at arms length, but teachers are preparing for their classes, kids are picking out binders and school supplies, summer clothing is on clearance, and the sun in the sky has shifted—we can turn to a poem about the sensual world from the collection, The Seven Ages. Enjoy!


I call to you across a monstrous river or chasm to caution you, to prepare you.

Earth will seduce you, slowly, imperceptibly, subtly, not to say with connivance.

I was not prepared: I stood in my grandmother’s kitchen, holding out my glass. Stewed plums, stewed apricots–

the juice poured off into the glass of ice. And the water added, patiently, in small increments,

the various cousins discriminating, tasting with each addition–

aroma of summer fruit, intensity of concentration: the colored liquid turning gradually lighter, more radiant,

more light passing through it. Delight, then solace. My grandmother waiting,

to see if more was wanted. Solace, then deep immersion. I loved nothing more: deep privacy of the sensual life,

the self disappearing into it or inseparable from it, somehow suspended, floating, its needs

fully exposed, awakened, fully alive– Deep immersion, and with it

mysterious safety. Far away, the fruit glowing it its glass bowls. Outside the kitchen, the sun setting.

I was not prepared: sunset, end of summer. Demonstrations of time as a continuum, as something coming to an end,

not a suspension: the senses wouldn’t protect me. I caution you as I was never cautioned:

you will never let go, you will never be satiated. You will be damaged and scarred, you will continue to hunger.

Your body will age, you will continue to need. You will want the earth, then more of the earth–

Sublime, indifferent, it is present, it will not respond. It is encompassing, it will not minister.

Meaning, it will feed you, it will ravish you, it will not keep you alive.

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