“Alive Together” by Lisel Mueller

Speaking of marvels, I am alive
together with you, when I might have been
alive with anyone under the sun,
when I might have been Abelard’s woman
or the whore of a Renaissance pope
or a peasant wife with not enough food
and not enough love, with my children
dead of the plague. I might have slept
in an alcove next to the man
with the golden nose, who poked it
into the business of stars,
or sewn a starry flag
for a general with wooden teeth.
I might have been the exemplary Pocahontas
or a woman without a name
weeping in Master’s bed
for my husband, exchanged for a mule,
my daughter, lost in a drunken bet.
I might have been stretched on a totem pole
to appease a vindictive god
or left, a useless girl-child,
to die on a cliff. I like to think
I might have been Mary Shelley
in love with a wrongheaded angel,
or Mary’s friend, I might have been you.
This poem is endless, the odds against us are endless,
our chances of being alive together
statistically nonexistent;
still we have made it, alive in a time
when rationalists in square hats
and hatless Jehovah’s Witnesses
agree it is almost over,
alive with our lively children
who–but for endless ifs–
might have missed out on being alive
together with marvels and follies
and longings and lies and wishes
and error and humor and mercy
and journeys and voices and faces
and colors and summers and mornings
and knowledge and tears and chance.


“Alive Together” by Lisel Mueller from Alive Together. © Louisiana State University Press, 1996.

8 thoughts on ““Alive Together” by Lisel Mueller

  1. Shireen Dunbar

    Hi Christina,
    I subscribed to your posts a little while ago, and I thought I should tell you how much I love what you’re doing.
    I’ve never really understood the appeal of poetry, but now I do.
    Maybe it’s middle age that has changed my perspective or maybe I just needed to actually read poetry mindfully, but I’m now delighted that poetry exists!!! (I know that sounds very odd but I can’t think how to express myself!)
    Thank you for taking the time to make these posts, and for helping me see even more beauty in the world.
    With very kind regards,

    Sent from my iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Shireen, thank you so much for your very kind note. I tend to think poetry finds us when we most need it, sometimes when we’re most open to it. While I love the classics…okay maybe not love, but while I like the classics…I think poetry that is easier to (initially) understand, poetry that captures relateable moments, does better to instill that inital love for poetry in us and especially in our children. I was lucky that Shel Silverstein was my introduction to poetry versus Keats or Shelley; by that same token, I love the Poetry 180 project that introduced so many of our students to the likes of Billy Collins and Mary Oliver (a nice mix of humor and satire and nature and dogs, and approachable every day moments).
      Anyways…I’m so happy you are here and that we are “alive together”! I used to post daily (so there are tons of poems in the archive), but now post as time and life permit. ❤ Christy


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