By Louise Gluck

The light stays longer in the sky, but it's a cold light,
it brings no relief from winter.

My neighbor stares out the window,
talking to her dog. He's sniffing the garden,
trying to reach a decision about the dead flowers.

It's a little early for all this.
Everything's still very bare--
nevertheless, something's different today from yesterday.

We can see the mountain: the peak's glittering where the ice catches the light.
But on the sides the snow's melted, exposing bare rock.

My neighbor's calling the dog, making her unconvincing doglike sounds.
The dog's polite; he raises his head when she calls,
but he doesn't move. So she goes on calling,
her failed bark slowly deteriorating into a human voice.

All her life she dreamed of living by the sea
but fate didn't put her there.
It laughed at her dreams;
it locked her up in the hills, where no one escapes.

The sun beats down on the earth, the earth flourishes.
And every winter, it's as though the rock underneath the earth rises
higher and higher and the earth becomes rock, cold and rejecting.

She says hope killed her parents, it killed her grandparents.
It rose up each spring with the wheat
and died between the heat of summer and the raw cold.
In the end, they told her to live near the sea,
as though that would make a difference.

By late spring she'll be garrulous, but now she's down to two words,
never and only, to express this sense that life's cheated her.

Never the cries of the gulls, only, in summer, the crickets, cicadas.
Only the smell of the field, when all she wanted
was the smell of the sea, of disappearance.

The sky above the fields has turned a sort of grayish pink
as the sun sinks. The clouds are silk yarn, magenta and crimson.

And everywhere the earth is rustling, not lying still.
And the dog senses this stirring; his ears twitch.

He walks back and forth, vaguely remembering
from other years this elation. The season of discoveries
is beginning. Always the same discoveries, but to the dog
intoxicating and new, not duplicitous.

I tell my neighbor we'll be like this
when we lose our memories. I ask her if she's ever seen the sea
and she says, once, in a movie.
It was a sad story, nothing worked out at all.

The lovers part. The sea hammers the shore, the mark each wave leaves
wiped out by the wave that follows.
Never accumulation, never one wave trying to build on another,
never the promise of shelter--

The sea doesn't change as the earth changes;
it doesn't lie.
You ask the sea, what can you promise me
and it speaks the truth; it says erasure.

Finally the dog goes in.
We watch the crescent moon,
very faint at first, then clearer and clearer
as the night grows dark.
Soon it will be the sky of early spring, stretching above the stubborn ferns and violets.

Nothing can be forced to live.
The earth is like a drug now, like a voice from far away,
a lover or master. In the end, you do what the voice tells you.
It says forget, you forget.
It says begin again, you begin again.


Important Clarification

Serving Suggestion

OK, this is a terrible photo, but it was the best I was willing to do for the sake of a snarky blog post, so bear with me.

The product pictured above is a bag of cinnamon crunch granola made specifically for people with food allergies, which, I'm happy to say, don't affect me but, I'm less happy to say, do affect my friend Connie, the original purchaser of this breakfast treat. It turns out that this free-of-everything-else (wheat, nuts, soy, flavor) granola contains flax seeds, which Connie can't do, so she offered the bag to me.

And here's what I find delightful and maddening in equal measures. The image on the front of the package is of a very simple, totally unadorned bowl of granola--no fruit on top, no milk peeking out from under the granola clumps, nothing. It's very literally a bowl of granola. In the background there's an orange gerbera daisy and a few sticks of cinnamon. And down in the bottom left corner, below the big green "Allergen Free" emblem, are the words "Serving Suggestion."

Now, OK, I've complained here before about ridiculous food labels (notably the can of 100% cashews that bore a "Contains cashews" notice), and I'm sure there are all sorts of ridiculous American litigious reasons behind this, but seriously. Are there people who really expect that, upon opening this bag, they will discover not only granola pellets but also the bowl, flower, and decorative spice sticks pictured on the package? Must they be encouraged to go ahead with their planned consumption of this cereal even if their breakfast table does not identically resemble the one shown here? Do they truly need the reassurance that this is a suggestion--only a suggestion!--and not the required serving method and layout?

I understand the whole "Serving Suggestion" disclaimer on food packages that show their contents all tarted up in some sort of foodie version of the boudoir photo, with parts that glisten and garnishes so ripe and fresh they threaten to explode, but seriously, this whole granola photo could not be more straightforward unless it showed the cereal in a heap on a table with the open, empty bag lurking in the background. And even then, perhaps the manufacturer would have to clarify that the table itself was not included.

Are we as a nation really this dumb?