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By Lisel Mueller

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)

  • Living
  • Nature

Poet Bio

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

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