The Traveler

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Feb. 21 2001 3:00 AM

The Traveler

At the top of the tree was what I wanted.
Fortunately, I had read books:
I knew I was being tested.

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I knew nothing would work—
not to climb that high, not to force
the fruit down. One of three results must follow:
the fruit isn't what you imagined,
or it is but fails to satiate.
Or it is damaged in falling
and as a shattered thing torments you forever.

But I refused to be
bested by fruit. I stood under the tree,
waiting for my mind to save me.
I stood, long after the fruit rotted.

And after many years, a traveler passed by me
where I stood, and greeted me warmly,
as one would greet a brother. And I asked why,
why was I so familiar to him,
having never seen him?

And he said, "Because I am like you,
therefore I recognize you. I treated all experience
as a spiritual or intellectual trial
in which to exhibit or prove my superiority
to my predecessors. I chose
to live in hypothesis; longing sustained me.

In fact, what I needed most was longing, which you seem
to have achieved in stasis,
but which I have found in change, in departure."

Louise Glück's new book, A Village Life, will appear this September.

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