The Myth of Innocence
One summer she goes into the field as usual stopping for a bit at the pool where she often looks at herself, to see if she detects any changes. She sees the same person, the horrible mantle of daughterliness still clinging to her. The sun seems, in the water, very close. That's my uncle spying again, she thinks— everything in nature is in some way her relative. I am never alone, she thinks, turning the thought into a prayer. Then death appears, like the answer to a prayer. No one understands anymore how beautiful he was. But Persephone remembers. Also that he embraced her, right there, with her uncle watching. She remembers sunlight flashing on his bare arms. This is the last moment she remembers clearly. Then the dark god bore her away. She also remembers, less clearly, the chilling insight that from this moment she couldn't live without him again. The girl who disappears from the pool will never return. A woman will return, looking for the girl she was. She stands by the pool saying, from time to time, I was abducted, but it sounds wrong to her, nothing like what she felt. Then she says, I was not abducted. Then she says, I offered myself, I wanted to escape my body. Even, sometimes, I willed this. But ignorance cannot will knowledge. Ignorance wills something imagined, which it believes exists. All the different nouns— she says them in rotation. Death, husband, god, stranger. Everything sounds so simple, so conventional. I must have been, she thinks, a simple girl. She can't remember herself as that person but she keeps thinking the pool will remember and explain to her the meaning of her prayer so she can understand whether it was answered or not.
"The Myth of Innocence" from Averno by Louise Glück. Copyright © 2006 by Louise Glück. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.
The author of numerous collections of poetry, Louise Glück is the recipient of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature, served as a Chancellor for the Academy of American Poets, and twas the Library of Congress’s poet laureate consultant in poetry.
Date Published: 2006-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/myth-innocence