When I am asked   
how I began writing poems,   
I talk about the indifference of nature.   

It was soon after my mother died,   
a brilliant June day,   
everything blooming.   

I sat on a gray stone bench   
in a lovingly planted garden,   
but the day lilies were as deaf   
as the ears of drunken sleepers   
and the roses curved inward.   
Nothing was black or broken   
and not a leaf fell   
and the sun blared endless commercials   
for summer holidays.   

I sat on a gray stone bench   
ringed with the ingenue faces   
of pink and white impatiens   
and placed my grief   
in the mouth of language,   
the only thing that would grieve with me.

  • Lisel Mueller, "When I am Asked" from Alive Together: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 1996 by Lisel Mueller.  Reprinted by permission of Louisiana State University Press.

  • Source: Alive Together: New and Selected Poems (Louisiana State University Press, 1996)

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