Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


When I Am Asked

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.

Credit


From Alive Together: New and Selected Poems (Louisiana State University Press, 1996). Copyright © 1996 by Lisel Mueller.  Reprinted by permission of Louisiana State University Press.

Author


Lisel Mueller

Lisel Mueller was born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1924. Her books of poetry include Alive Together: New & Selected Poems (Louisiana State University Press, 1996), which won the Pulitzer Prize. Her other honors include the Carl Sandburg Award and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. She lived in Lake Forest, Illinois and died on February 21, 2020. 

Date Published: 1996-10-01

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/when-i-am-asked