Home > Poetry > Telemachus’ Fantasy
Published: Mon Apr 15 1996
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Convertiendse en Characoteles / Sorcerers Changing into Their Animal Forms (detail), 2013, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.
AGNI 43 AGNI 56 Mysteries Relationships Sexuality
Telemachus’ Fantasy

Sometimes I wonder about my father’s
years on those islands: why
was he so attractive
to women? He was in straits then, I suppose
desperate. I believe
women like to see a man
still whole, still standing, but
about to go to pieces: such
disintegration reminds them
of passion. I think of them as living
their whole lives
completely undressed. It must have
dazzled him, I think, women
so much younger than
he was evidently
wild for him, ready
to do anything he wished. Is it
fortunate to encounter circumstances
so responsive to one’s own will, to live
so many years
unquestioned, unthwarted? One
would have to believe oneself
entirely good or worthy. I
suppose in time either
one becomes a monster or
the beloved sees what one is. I never
wish for my father’s life
nor have I any idea
what he sacrificed
to survive that moment. Less dangerous
to believe he was drawn to them
and so stayed
to see who they were. I think, though,
as an imaginative man
to some extent he
became who they were.

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Louise Glück (1943–2023) won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature. The author of fourteen books of poetry—including the collections Faithful and Virtuous Night (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014), winner of the National Book Award, and Poems 1962–2012 (FSG, 2012)—two essay collections, and a hybrid work of fiction, she also received the Pulitzer Prize, the Bollingen Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and many other honors. She served as poet laureate of the United States from 2003 to 2004.

Glück’s collection Vita Nova (FSG, 2009) was reviewed in AGNI 50 by Valerie Duff.

Dan Chiasson’s essay “How to Read the World: Louise Glück’s ‘Prism’” appeared in AGNI 59.

Writers who knew Louise Glück reflect on her and her work on our memorial page.

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