There is a moment after you move your eye away
when you forget where you are
because you’ve been living, it seems,
somewhere else, in the silence of the night sky.

You’ve stopped being here in the world.
You’re in a different place,
a place where human life has no meaning.

You’re not a creature in a body.
You exist as the stars exist,
participating in their stillness, their immensity.

Then you’re in the world again.
At night, on a cold hill,
taking the telescope apart.

You realize afterward
not that the image is false
but the relation is false.

You see again how far away
each thing is from every other thing.

Per the general quality of this piece, you might find it quizzical that I first chanced upon it in the New Yorker—gravesite as that place has become for poetry. I remember the afternoon clearly: still quite the debutant, probably off a day walking up and down Newbury Street in Boston, browsing glossies at the Trident, I thought This is the kind of work it takes to get into a good poetry periodical.

It was years later that, still resonant, the final two lines of the poem made it into one of my itinerant Google searches, and the poem was rediscovered. Though Glück’s particular troubles with hack or half-examined philosophy continue to trouble her here (the very purport of the poem, for example, hinges on the supposed merit of the verso of the idea that space is a place ‘where human life has no meaning’—why ought human life have no meaning in space if space has some meaning to the human? and how can one so easily assume that stars do not have a ‘body’ of sorts?), her very straightforward construction and pacing creates a precipitous drop at “Telescope’s” close.

It’s the turn after the third stanza—its abruptness—that solidified the last couplet’s simmering power. How well Glück’s leanness serves her, in this case:

Then you’re in the world again.
At night, on a cold hill,
taking the telescope apart.

The denouement is utterly ruthless; even if the speaker’s philosophy was hack previous, still the act of thinking did a good deal for transportation of the mind; as soon as the eye is plucked from the telescope, twelve of the following thirteen sounds are monosyllables, and explanation is of the most bony (though bright) sort.

And if this poem speaks to certain of Glück’s writerly quandaries, it also finds success in a rare spot: namely, the speaker’s refusal to marry revelation (or sadness) to the corporeal.   She is less a sufferer than a witness to suffering, and the coil of the poem does not release, but marvelously disintegrates.