Telescope

by Louise Glück

telescope_GluckThere is a moment after you move your eye away
when you forget where you are
because you’ve been living, it seems,
somewhere else, in the silence of the night sky.

You’ve stopped being here in the world.
You’re in a different place,
a place where human life has no meaning.

You’re not a creature in body.
You exist as the stars exist,
participating in their stillness, their immensity.

Then you’re in the world again.
At night, on the cold hill,
taking the telescope apart.

You realize afterward
not that the image is false
but the relation is false.

You see again how far away
every thing is from every other thing.

James Longenbach in his remarkable book, The Virtues of Poetry, offers the following insightful comment about this poem:

Here, the astronomer’s instrument becomes the means through which we feel wonder – not while we’re looking through the telescope but in the moment after we move our eye from its lens. Then the feeling passes, and only at this moment, at the beginning of the poem’s seventh sentence, does Glück tell us where we are: on a cold hill, taking the telescope apart. The poem’s most basic narrative information is delayed so that we might feel its mere recital as revelation. For the poem’s mission is not to assert the incomprehensible distance of the stars, but to make us feel the incomprehensible distance between ourselves and what appears most near to us. In the scrupulous vocabulary of the poem itself, we are not wrong to feel wonder at the “image” of the night sky, but we are wrong to think of our “relation” to the stars as being more inexplicable than our relation to any other thing, no matter how close, no matter how familiar.”

Also, a final reminder that Louise Glück will be the topic for our next session on Thursday, February 25. Please see the SCHEDULE PAGE for a list of Glück’s poems to be discussed.

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