“Romantics” by Lisel Mueller & Question for Readers

Note from Christy: Do you know who read this poem on Garrison Keillor’s audiobook version of Good Poems? Please see questions that follow this post:

  Johannes Brahms and
Clara Schumann

The modern biographers worry
“how far it went,” their tender friendship.
They wonder just what it means
when he writes he thinks of her constantly,
his guardian angel, beloved friend.
The modern biographers ask
the rude, irrelevant question
of our age, as if the event
of two bodies meshing together
establishes the degree of love,
forgetting how softly Eros walked
in the nineteenth-century, how a hand
held overlong or a gaze anchored
in someone’s eyes could unseat a heart,
and nuances of address not known
in our egalitarian language
could make the redolent air
tremble and shimmer with the heat
of possibility. Each time I hear
the Intermezzi, sad
and lavish in their tenderness,
I imagine the two of them
sitting in a garden
among late-blooming roses
and dark cascades of leaves,
letting the landscape speak for them,
leaving us nothing to overhear.

Lisel Mueller, “Romantics” from Alive Together: New and Selected Poems. (Louisiana State University Press, 1996). Copyright © 1996 by Lisel Mueller.

* Question for my fellow poetry lovers:

Fellow poetry reader Bob S. asked on our post “Garrison Keillor, Good Poems, and “Bear In Mind” by John Martin if anyone had a listing of the readers for the audiobook version of Keillor’s Good Poems. (I found a partial list which I shared with Bob in the comments, but I couldn’t answer his primary question, which was…:) More specifically, does anyone know the female who read Lisel Mueller’s poem “Romantics”?

And a follow-up question: How important is it to you to be able to listen to a poem as you read along? I know many people enjoyed listening to Keillor read his daily poem choices at The Writer’s Almanac. Is that (being able to listen to poems) something that would be valuable to readers here? I sometimes link to YouTube videos of poets reading their material, but not regularly; would you like me to do more of that? Or what if I read a poem for you from time to time?

If you know who reads Mueller’s poem on the audio version of Good Poems, please let us know in the comments. And please feel free to share your thoughts on listening to poems. Thank you, friends, for your help. -Christy

“The Poet” by Jane Hirshfield

She is working now, in a room
not unlike this one,
the one where I write, or you read.
Her table is covered with paper.
The light of the lamp would be
tempered by a shade, where the bulb’s
single harshness might dissolve,
but it is not; she has taken it off.
Her poems? I will never know them,
though they are the ones I most need.
Even the alphabet she writes in
I cannot decipher. Her chair —
let us imagine whether it is leather
or canvas, vinyl or wicker. Let her
have a chair, her shadeless lamp,
the table. Let one or two she loves
be in the next room. Let the door
be closed, the sleeping ones healthy.
Let her have time, and silence,
enough paper to make mistakes and go on.

Jane Hirshfield from The Lives of the Heart 

“Winter Solstice” by Richard Wehrman

The only way down is down, leaving the
light for the dark, allowing the surface to sink,
under the shimmering deepness, to the depths
where float our desires, to the things that the
world and our minds made, where all of
them no longer are.

A round black ball, an obsidian sphere,
rolls in my hand, turns on my fingertips, as
body and mind roll around it, slide like a serpent’s
coil over the deep black eye of the egg: fixed and
immovable, immense, around which the
universe turns, the world silently glides.

The Silence shimmers under the new snow;
the cat watches from the window as slow flakes
wind their way down. Whiteness covers the
upper edge of everything as darkness peeks
out from below—the light’s support, the
unformedness under it all.

I am a weaver casting his shuttle, a fisherman
casting his line. Each throw my soul sails
out into Emptiness. Someone invisible tosses
it back. All day and night we play this game:
Life breathing life in and out, weaving our warm
black blanket, a universe wrapped in stars.


from The Book of the Garden, © 2014 by Richard Wehrman.

“It would be neat if with the New Year” by Jimmy Santiago Baca

for Miguel

It would be neat if with the New Year
I could leave my loneliness behind with the old year.
My leathery loneliness an old pair of work boots
my dog vigorously head-shakes back and forth in its jaws,
chews on for hours every day in my front yard—
rain, sun, snow, or wind
in bare feet, pondering my poem,
I’d look out my window and see that dirty pair of boots in the yard.

But my happiness depends so much on wearing those boots.

At the end of my day
while I’m in a chair listening to a Mexican corrido
I stare at my boots appreciating:
all the wrong roads we’ve taken, all the drug and whiskey houses
we’ve visited, and as the Mexican singer wails his pain,
I smile at my boots, understanding every note in his voice,
and strangers, when they see my boots rocking back and forth on my
keeping beat to the song, see how
my boots are scuffed, tooth-marked, worn-soled.

I keep wearing them because they fit so good
and I need them, especially when I love so hard,
where I go up those boulder strewn trails,
where flowers crack rocks in their defiant love for the light.



“It would be neat if with the New Year” by Jimmy Santiago Baca, from Winter Poems Along the Río Grande. Copyright © 2004 by Jimmy Santiago Baca. New Directions Publishing Corp.

“Our Real Work” by Wendell Berry

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.

Copyright ©1983 by Wendell Berry, from Standing by Words. Counterpoint.