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By Lisel Mueller

This is not fantasy, this is our life.

We are the characters

who have invaded the moon,

who cannot stop their computers.

We are the gods who can unmake

the world in seven days.


Both hands are stopped at noon.

We are beginning to live forever,

in lightweight, aluminum bodies

with numbers stamped on our backs.

We dial our words like Muzak.

We hear each other through water.


The genre is dead. Invent something new.

Invent a man and a woman

naked in a garden,

invent a child that will save the world,

a man who carries his father

out of a burning city.

Invent a spool of thread

that leads a hero to safety,

invent an island on which he abandons

the woman who saved his life

with no loss of sleep over his betrayal.


Invent us as we were

before our bodies glittered

and we stopped bleeding:

invent a shepherd who kills a giant,

a girl who grows into a tree,

a woman who refuses to turn

her back on the past and is changed to salt,

a boy who steals his brother’s birthright

and becomes the head of a nation.

Invent real tears, hard love,

slow-spoken, ancient words,

difficult as a child’s

first steps across a room.

Lisel Mueller, “The End of Science Fiction” 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)

  • Arts & Sciences
  • Mythology & Folklore
  • Social Commentaries

Poet Bio

Lisel Mueller
Lisel Mueller was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1924. She had a career both writing poetry and translating. She attended the University of Evansville and performed her graduate study at Indiana University. She has taught at the University of Chicago, Elmhurst College, and Goddard College. She also worked at as a social worker, receptionist, and library assistant. She died in early 2020. See More By This Poet

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