The Untrustworthy Speaker by Louise Glück
I was hurting, and I said, I’ll burn this fucking house down. They worried that the neighbors will hear. Really? After everything that has happened, don’t you think everybody already knows what’s going on here? If you think otherwise then you’re a bigger fool than I am. The woman who has taken care of me since I was born didn’t say anything at first. She was peeling onions in the kitchen. It will be like this forever, I insisted. It’s hopeless to expect change. I’ll burn it all.
She turned to me. Just tell me when, she said, quietly.
The Untrustworthy Speaker
Don’t listen to me; my heart’s been broken.
I don’t see anything objectively.
I know myself; I’ve learned to hear like a psychiatrist.
When I speak passionately,
that’s when I’m least to be trusted.
It’s very sad, really: all my life, I’ve been praised
for my intelligence, my powers of language, of insight.
In the end, they’re wasted—
I never see myself,
standing on the front steps, holding my sister’s hand.
That’s why I can’t account
for the bruises on her arm, where the sleeve ends.
In my own mind, I’m invisible: that’s why I’m dangerous.
People like me, who seem selfless,
we’re the cripples, the liars;
we’re the ones who should be factored out
in the interest of truth.
When I’m quiet, that’s when the truth emerges.
A clear sky, the clouds like white fibers.
Underneath, a little gray house, the azaleas
red and bright pink.
If you want the truth, you have to close yourself
to the older daughter, block her out:
when a living thing is hurt like that,
in its deepest workings,
all function is altered.
That’s why I’m not to be trusted.
Because a wound to the heart
is also a wound to the mind.