“Immortality” by Lisel Mueller

In Sleeping Beauty’s castle
the clock strikes one hundred years
and the girl in the tower returns to the
So do the servants in the kitchen,
who don’t even rub their eyes.
The cook’s right hand, lifted
an exact century ago,
completes its downward arc
to the kitchen boy’s left ear;
the boy’s tensed vocal cords
finally let go
the trapped, enduring whimper,
and the fly, arrested mid-plunge
above the strawberry pie,
fulfills its abiding mission
and dives into the sweet, red glaze.

As a child I had a book
with a picture of that scene.
I was too young to notice
how fear persists, and how
the anger that causes fear persists,
that its trajectory can’t be changed
or broken, only interrupted.
My attention was on the fly;
that this slight body
with its transparent wings
and lifespan of one human day
still craved its particular share
of sweetness, a century later.

—Lisel Mueller, from Alive Together: New & Selected Poems, 1996. Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, LA. Copyright 2001 by Lisel Mueller.

One thought on ““Immortality” by Lisel Mueller

  1. Sometimes I just shake my head in awe and think, “How do people even fathom these thoughts?”
    What an amazing look at an old fairy tale. I’ve been cursing fairy tales of late – I love what she did with this one.
    And also – I am craving strawberry pie.


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