“When I Am Asked” 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.

3 thoughts on ““When I Am Asked” by Lisel Mueller

    1. It was as if someone were speaking my own words straight to my heart years before I even lost my mom, and reading them was the echo of recognition, as if they had finally been called home.


      But isn’t that what poetry does if we let it?

      Sent from my iPhone


      Liked by 1 person

      1. The things poetry does. I sent a Mary piece to one of my non-poetry reading friends this morning. She’s an instant convert – just like I was.
        Reminds me! I have some flower picking to do. Be looking for a little something later 😉

        Liked by 1 person

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