NAMING THE ANIMALS

by Lisel Mueller

Until he named the horse
                               horse,
hoofs left no print on the earth,
manes had not been invented,
swiftness and grace were not married.


Until he named the cow
                               cow,
no one slept standing up,
no one saw through opaque eyes,
food was chewed only once.


Only after he named the fish
                                        fish,
did the light put on skins
of yellow and silver oil,
revealing itself as a dancer
and high-jump champion of the world,


just as later
he had to name the woman
                                 love
before he could put on the knowledge
of who she was, with her small hands.

 

 

 

The poems reprinted here appear in Lisel Mueller's Alive Together (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1996). Copyright © 1996 by Lisel Mueller. Used with the author's permission.