Original poem reprinted online here: "A Fable" by Louise Glück
Originally read: January 20, 2013
More information about the Poet: Louise Glück
In any case, this is a poem that I think would be better off as a flash fiction piece. All the qualities are there for a flash fiction piece: short, plot, character development. I look at the form and the line breaks and wonder what is gained by them.
For example, "Two women with" ending with "with." I remember back that writer's shouldn't end a sentence with a preposition. I never fully understood the reason why. However, in this poem, I have a reason why. Ending with a preposition forces to reader to go to the next line or sentence as though the speaker has withheld something -- a piece of information or ideas. I feel that once it's cool, but twice within three line -- it's a little much. I know this is very nitpicky, but, I notice, now and past me, these things because the lines are shorter and there's more attention to every single word.
The flow of the poem is stilted through the short lines; however, if they had a better flow, the plot could be the focus instead of the language. Yes, it could be that the writer wanted the short lines in order to disrupt preexisting thoughts about Solomon's predicament with the focus on women. But the short lines really detract from this for me (something I didn't notice before when I read).
Two-Thirds in to the poem, there is didactic moment when the speaker intrudes to insert a meaning, "this was / the sign, the lesson."
I feel that the bottom one-third of the poem has really good insight and would be good in a short story (akin how "The Grasshopper and the Bell-Cricket" by Yasunari Kawabata work. The "lesson learned" isn't from the speaker; rather a parallel story at the end where either a) both insights work or b) even though they are similar stories, the insight doesn't work with both.
Then there's a vague sense of parallelism and perpendicularism all at once as both personal and fable overlay each other. Yet, the bottom 1/3 is too short and too on the nose, "what could you do / to save her but be / willing to destroy / yourself" Strong sentiment. but perhaps overly sentimental (to me), if the thoughts were drawn out a bit more, perhaps.