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Best Famous Lisel Mueller Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous Lisel Mueller poems. This is a select list of the best famous Lisel Mueller poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous Lisel Mueller poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of Lisel Mueller poems.

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Written by Lisel Mueller |


 In Sleeping Beauty's castle
the clock strikes one hundred years
and the girl in the tower returns to the world.
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 life-span of one human day still craved its particular share of sweetness, a century later.

Written by Lisel Mueller |

Alive Together

 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 pop
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 wrong-headed 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.

Written by Lisel Mueller |


 WE must pass like smoke or live within the spirit’s fire;
For we can no more than smoke unto the flame return
If our thought has changed to dream, our will unto desire,
 As smoke we vanish though the fire may burn.
Lights of infinite pity star the grey dusk of our days: Surely here is soul: with it we have eternal breath: In the fire of love we live, or pass by many ways, By unnumbered ways of dream to death.

More great poems below...

Written by Lisel Mueller |

Scenic Route

 For Lucy, who called them "ghost houses.
" Someone was always leaving and never coming back.
The wooden houses wait like old wives along this road; they are everywhere, abandoned, leaning, turning gray.
Someone always traded the lonely beauty of hemlock and stony lakeshore for survival, packed up his life and drove off to the city.
In the yards the apple trees keep hanging on, but the fruit grows smaller year by year.
When we come this way again the trees will have gone wild, the houses collapsed, not even worth the human act of breaking in.
Fields will have taken over.
What we will recognize is the wind, the same fierce wind, which has no history.

Written by Lisel Mueller |

All Night

 All night the knot in the shoelace 
waits for its liberation, 
and the match on the table packs its head 
with anticipation of light.
The faucet sweats out a bead of water, which gathers strength for the free fall, while the lettuce in the refrigerator succumbs to its brown killer.
And in the novel I put down before I fall asleep, the paneled walls of a room are condemned to stand and wait for tomorrow, when I'll get to the page where the prisoner finds the secret door and steps into air and the scent of lilacs.

Written by Lisel Mueller |

Five For Country Music

Insomnia The bulb at the front door burns and burns.
If it were a white rose it would tire of blooming through another endless night.
The moon knows the routine; it beats the bushes from east to west and sets empty-handed.
Again the one she is waiting for has outrun the moon.
Old Money The spotted hands shake as they polish the coins.
The shiny penny goes under the tongue, the two silver pieces weighted by pyramids will shut down the eyes.
All the rest is paper, useless in any world but this.
Home Movie She knows that walk, that whistle, that knock.
It's the black wolf who sticks his floured paw underneath the door.
She tries not to open.
One look at his face and she'll drop the gun.
He will pick it up and turn it on her where she waits, her eyes shining, her hands over her head.
Golden Boy Whitewashed, the eyes refuse you.
And so the mouth must be serene, the muscles play, the body take an easy stance to divert you from the two boarded-up chambers where someone has died.
Washing Day Each year her laundry line gets lighter.
One by one they disappear, ten little Indians.
They take their socks, their jeans, their stiff plaid shirts.
Above the Ford on its concrete blocks, striped and zippered, her cotton dress flutters on and on.

Written by Lisel Mueller |

Moon Fishing

 When the moon was full they came to the water.
some with pitchforks, some with rakes, some with sieves and ladles, and one with a silver cup.
And they fished til a traveler passed them and said, "Fools, to catch the moon you must let your women spread their hair on the water -- even the wily moon will leap to that bobbing net of shimmering threads, gasp and flop till its silver scales lie black and still at your feet.
" And they fished with the hair of their women till a traveler passed them and said, "Fools, do you think the moon is caught lightly, with glitter and silk threads? You must cut out your hearts and bait your hooks with those dark animals; what matter you lose your hearts to reel in your dream?" And they fished with their tight, hot hearts till a traveler passed them and said, "Fools, what good is the moon to a heartless man? Put back your hearts and get on your knees and drink as you never have, until your throats are coated with silver and your voices ring like bells.
" And they fished with their lips and tongues until the water was gone and the moon had slipped away in the soft, bottomless mud.

Written by Lisel Mueller |

For A Thirteenth Birthday

 You have read War and Peace.
Now here is Sister Carrie, not up to Tolstoy; still it will second the real world: predictable planes and levels, pavement that holds you, stairs that lift you, ice that trips you, nights that begin after sunset, four lunar phases, a finite house.
I give you Dreiser although (or because) I am no longer sure.
Lately I have been walking into glass doors.
Through the car windows, curbs disappear.
On the highway, wrong turnoffs become irresistible, someone else is controlling the wheel.
Sleepless nights pile up like a police record; all my friends are getting divorced.
Language, my old comrade, deserts me; words are misused or forgotten, consonants fight each other between my upper and lower teeth.
I write "fiend" for "friend" and "word" for "world", remember comes out with an "m" missing.
I used to be able to find my way in the dark, sure of the furniture, but the town I lived in for years has pulled up its streets in my absence, disguised its buildings behind my back.
My neighbor at dinner glances at his cuffs, his palms; he has memorized certain phrases, but does not speak my language.
Suddenly I am aware no one at the table does.
And so I give you Dreiser, his measure of certainty: a table that's oak all the way through, real and fragrant flowers, skirts from sheep and silkworms, no unknown fibers; a language as plain as money, a workable means of exchange; a world whose very meanness is solid, mud into mortar, and you are sure of what will injure you.
I give you names like nails, walls that withstand your pounding, doors that are hard to open, but once they are open, admit you into rooms that breathe pure sun.
I give you trees that lose their leaves, as you knew they would, and then come green again.
I give you fruit preceded by flowers, Venus supreme in the sky, the miracle of always landing on your feet, even though the earth rotates on its axis.
Start out with that, at least.

Written by Lisel Mueller |

Reading The Brothers Grimm To Jenny

 Jenny, your mind commands
kingdoms of black and white:
you shoulder the crow on your left,
the snowbird on your right;
for you the cinders part
and let the lentils through,
and noise falls into place
as screech or sweet roo-coo,
while in my own, real, world
gray foxes and gray wolves
bargain eye to eye,
and the amazing dove
takes shelter under the wing
of the raven to keep dry.
Knowing that you must climb, one day, the ancient tower where disenchantment binds the curls of innocence, that you must live with power and honor circumstance, that choice is what comes true-- oh, Jenny, pure in heart, why do I lie to you? Why do I read you tales in which birds speak the truth and pity cures the blind, and beauty reaches deep to prove a royal mind? Death is a small mistake there, where the kiss revives; Jenny, we make just dreams out of our unjust lives.
Still, when your truthful eyes, your keen, attentive stare, endow the vacuous slut with royalty, when you match her soul to her shimmering hair, what can she do but rise to your imagined throne? And what can I, but see beyond the world that is, when, faithful, you insist I have the golden key-- and learn from you once more the terror and the bliss, the world as it might be?

Written by Lisel Mueller |

Blood Oranges

 In 1936, a child
in Hitler's Germany,
what did I know about the war in Spain?
Andalusia was a tango
on a wind-up gramophone,
Franco a hero's face in the paper.
No one told me about a poet for whose sake I might have learned Spanish bleeding to death on a barren hill.
All I knew of Spain were those precious imported treats we splurged on for Christmas.
I remember pulling the sections apart, lining them up, sucking each one slowly, so the red sweetness would last and last -- while I was reading a poem by a long-dead German poet in which the woods stood safe under the moon's milky eye and the white fog in the meadows aspired to become lighter than air.

Written by Lisel Mueller |

Night Song

 Among rocks, I am the loose one,
among aarows, I am the heart,
among daughters, I am the recluse,
among sons, the one who dies young.
Among answers, I am the question, between lovers, I am the sword, among scars, I am the fresh wound, among confetti, the black flag.
Among shoes, I am the onw with the pebble, among days, the one that never comes, among the bones you find on the beach the one that sings was mine.

Written by Lisel Mueller |

The Laughter Of Women

 The laughter of women sets fire
to the Halls of Injustice
and the false evidence burns
to a beautiful white lightness

It rattles the Chambers of Congress
and forces the windows wide open
so the fatuous speeches can fly out

The laughter of women wipes the mist
from the spectacles of the old;
it infects them with a happy flu
and they laugh as if they were young again

Prisoners held in underground cells
imagine that they see daylight
when they remember the laughter of women

It runs across water that divides,
and reconciles two unfriendly shores
like flares that signal the news to each other

What a language it is, the laughter of women,
high-flying and subversive.
Long before law and scripture we heard the laughter, we understood freedom.

Written by Lisel Mueller |

A Day Like Any Other

 Such insignificance: a glance
at your record on the doctor's desk
or a letter not meant for you.
How could you have known? It's not true that your life passes before you in rapid motion, but your watch suddenly ticks like an amplified heart, the hands freezing against a white that is a judgment.
Otherwise nothing.
The face in the mirror is still yours.
Two men pass on the sidewalk and do not stare at your window.
Your room is silent, the plants locked inside their mysterious lives as always.
The queen-of-the-night refuses to bloom, does not accept your definition.
It makes no sense, your scanning the street for a traffic snarl, a new crack in the pavement, a flag at half-mast -- signs of some disturbance in the world because your friend, the morning sun, has turned its dark side toward you.

Written by Lisel Mueller |

What The Dog Perhaps Hears

 If an inaudible whistle
blown between our lips
can send him home to us, 
then silence is perhaps
the sound of spiders breathing
and roots mining the earth; 
it may be asparagus heaving, 
headfirst, into the light
and the long brown sound
of cracked cups, when it happens.
We would like to ask the dog if there is a continuous whir because the child in the house keeps growing, if the snake really stretches full length without a click and the sun breaks through clouds without a decibel of effort, whether in autumn, when the trees dry up their wells, there isn't a shudder too high for us to hear.
What is it like up there above the shut-off level of our simple ears? For us there was no birth cry, the newborn bird is suddenly here, the egg broken, the nest alive, and we heard nothing when the world changed.

Written by Lisel Mueller |

Another Version

 Our trees are aspens, but people
mistake them for birches;
they think of us as characters
in a Russian novel, Kitty and Levin
living contentedly in the country.
Our friends from the city watch the birds and rabbits feeding together on top of the deep, white snow.
(We have Russian winters in Illinois, but no sleighbells, possums instead of wolves, no trusted servants to do our work.
) As in a Russian play, an old man lives in our house, he is my father; he lets go of life in such slow motion, year after year, that the grief is stuck inside me, a poisoned apple that won't go up or down.
But like the three sisters, we rarely speak of what keeps us awake at night; like them, we complain about things that don't really matter and talk of our pleasures and of the future: we tell each other the willows are early this year, hazy with green.