21 Days/21 Poems: Purple Bathing Suit by Louise Glück

A poem I wished that I had written is the theme for today’s 21 Days/21 Poems.

Purple Bathing Suit

I like watching you garden
with your back to me in your purple bathing suit:
your back is my favorite part of you,
the part furthest away from your mouth.

You might give some thought to that mouth.
Also to the way you weed, breaking
the grass off the ground level
when you should pull it up by the roots.

How many times do I have to tell you
how the grass spreads, your little
pile notwithstanding, in a dark mass which
by smoothing over the surface you have finally
fully obscured? Watching you

stare into space in the tidy
rows of the vegetable garden, ostensibly
working hard while actually
doing the worst job possible, I think

you are a small irritating purple thing
and I would like to see you walk off the face of the earth
because you are all that’s wrong with my life
and I need you and I claim you.

Now, I know I cannot write a line of poetry.  So, wishing that I had written a particular line of verse or a poem is not part of how I react to a poem.  This poem is an exception. It so wonderfully conveys the speaker’s frustration with the wearer of the purple bathing suit’s  deceptive character.  The speaker wants to expose the wearer for what he is.  Yet, this frustration is unresolved by the end of the poem when the speaker declares that she needs him.  It’s a perfect poem on deception.  The poet conceals the speaker’s attachment to the wearer till the very end of the poem.  The reader is thus deceived by the poet. Gluck makes the reader experience exactly what the speaker is saying – what it feels like to live with a person who cannot be honest about his life.  Of course, I love the snarky bits.

Louise Gluck (born in 1943) is an American poet and a winner of the Pulitzer Prize. More information on her is available at Poets.org.

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12 comments

  1. This from a guy – can’t read Ms. Louise without cupping my hands in the soccer penalty kick position. Strong smart women don’t whine about daddy/lovers/husbands endlessly from the time they were ‘brilliant girls’ sleeping with Stanley Kunitz to their AARP years.

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  2. “Now, I know I cannot write a line of poetry” you know this is not true. You may just not have put pen on paper or you make your readings intimidate you. But that statement isn’t true.

    I love such simple poems. Yet they are the most difficult to write. Capturing the mundane and making it extraordinary is what poets seek to do. Seeing the detail has not been a part of me. Love the big picture, whose components lose a lot of their individuality.

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    • Looked up the song and here is a section from the song:
      “So far from sincere {I love you}, fabrications in my ear
      Drive me so far up the wall, I come slidin’ down”

      Thanks.

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  3. That poem is awesome. I really enjoy the first stanza especially this …
    “your back is my favorite part of you,
    the part furthest away from your mouth” … you can just taste the contempt.

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    • Thanks for coming by and leaving a comment. Yes, the contempt is palpable. I thought the speaker and the wearer are a long-married couple, having lived together for a while, the speaker is so aware of the wearer’s foibles and yet, she still cares deeply.

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