Autumn, The Smell of Leaves Burning

Autumn

The part of life
devoted to contemplation
was at odds with the part
committed to action.

*

Fall was approaching.
But I remember
it was always approaching
once school ended.

*

Life, my sister said,
is like a torch passed now
from the body to the mind.
Sadly, she went on, the mind is not
there to receive it.

The sun was setting.
Ah, the torch, she said.
It has gone out, I believe.
Our best hope is that it’s flickering,
fort/da, fort/da, like little Ernst
throwing his toy over the side of his crib
and then pulling it back. It’s too bad,
she said, there are no children here.
We could learn from them, as Freud did.

*

We would sometimes sit
on benches outside the dining room.
The smell of leaves burning.

Old people and fire, she said.
Not a good thing. They burn their houses down.

*

How heavy my mind is,
filled with the past.
Is there enough room
for the world to penetrate?
It must go somewhere,
it cannot simply sit on the surface—

*

Stars gleaming over the water.
The leaves piled, waiting to be lit.

*

Insight, my sister said.
Now it is here.
But hard to see in the darkness.

You must find your footing
before you put your weight on it

Louise Glück is the winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature.

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