For two weeks he’s been watching the same girl,
someone he sees in the plaza. In her twenties maybe,
drinking coffee in the afternoon, the little dark head
bent over a magazine.
He watches from across the square, pretending
to be buying something, cigarettes, maybe a bouquet of flowers.
Because she doesn’t know it exists,
her power is very great now, fused to the needs of his imagination.
He is her prisoner. She says the words he gives her
in a voice he imagines, low-pitched and soft,
a voice from the south as the dark hair must be from the south.
Soon she will recognize him, then begin to expect him.
And perhaps then every day her hair will be freshly washed,
she will gaze outward across the plaza before looking down.
And after that they will become lovers.
But he hopes this will not happen immediately
since whatever power she exerts now over his body, over his emotions,
she will have no power once she commits herself—
she will withdraw into that private world of feeling
women enter when they love. And living there, she will become
like a person who casts no shadow, who is not present in the world;
in that sense, so little use to him
it hardly matters whether she lives or dies.
‘In the Plaza’ is excerpted from A Village Life.
Chosen for FSG Poetry Month by Garth Greenwell.
Louise Glück is the author of eleven books of poems and a collection of essays. Her many awards include the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Bollingen Prize, and the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets. She teaches at Yale University and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.