The poems of Louise Glück are an impressive, inspiring testimony of the importance of expressing how loss and grief affect us; when these emotions are addressed, they become a guiding light for us on our human journey to wholeness.
Louise Glück was born after her parents mourned the loss of their first daughter.
“Her death was not my experience, but her absence was,” writes the poet and:
“Her death let me be born…
“Louise Glück sought her mother’s approval exclusively, approval that was usually withheld…A younger sister appears in her poems, sometimes as an ally, often as a rival.” Dan Chiasson noted in The New Yorker, November 5, 2012)
In one point I respectfully differ with Chiasson who writes:
“She has suffered more than some, less than many; she has nothing uniquely harrowing to report.”
Glück has suffered from an existential condition that affects many persons and to a deeper degree than they might realize: the trauma of being born to a family who lost a child and suffering often life-long consequences; starting with a difficulty in mother-child-bonding; casting doubts on one’s identity and the burden of grief and guilt that comes with having survived while another sibling has not.
The poems of Glück speak right to the heart of adult replacement children, and remind us in the midst of this pandemic to not rush into seeking a ‘replacement’ for the loss of a dear loved member of the family.
The Replacement Child Forum recommends the work of Louise Glück. They may provide solace and comfort and a profound sense of understanding of what they, too, may be feeling.
This is a door to healing and psychological growth.
A few lines from:
The Wild Iris
by Louise Glück
At the end of my suffering there was a door.
Hear me out: that which you call death
It is terrible to survive
buried in the dark earth.
Then it was over: that which you fear, being
a soul and unable
to speak, ending abruptly
You who do not remember
passage from the other world
I tell you I could speak again: whatever
returns from oblivion returns to find a voice:
from the center of my life came
a great foundation, deep blue
shadows on azure seawater.
A Myth of Devotion
by Louise Glück
When Hades decided he loved this girl
he built for her a duplicate of earth,
Everything the same, including sunlight,
because it would be hard on a young girl
to go so quickly from bright light to utter darkness
Guilt? Terror? The fear of love?
These things he couldn’t imagine;
no lover ever imagines them.
In the end, he decides to name it
….He takes her in his arms.
He wants to say I love you, nothing can hurt you
but he thinks
this is a lie, so he says in the end
you’re dead, nothing can hurt you
which seems to him
a more promising beginning, more true.
by Louise Glück
Two women with
the same claim
came to the feet of
the wise king. Two women, but only one baby.
The king knew
someone was lying.
What he said was
Let the child be
cut in half; that way
no one will go empty-handed. He
drew his sword.
Then, of the two
renounced her share:
the sign, the lesson.
you saw your mother
torn between two daughters: what could you do
to save her but be
willing to destroy yourself—she would know who was the rightful child, the one who couldn’t bear
to divide the mother.