by Lisel Mueller
Bertolt Brecht lamented that he lived in an age when it was almost
a crime to talk about trees, because that meant being silent about so
much evil. Walking past a stand of tall, still healthy elms along
Chicago's lakefront, I think of what Brecht said. I want to celebrate
these elms which have been spared by the plague, these survivors of
a once flourishing tribe commemorated by all the Elm Streets in
America. But to celebrate them is to be silent about the people who
sit and sleep underneath them, the homeless poor who are hauled
away by the city like trash, except it has no place to dump them. To
speak of one thing is to suppress another. When I talk about myself,
I cannot talk about you. You know this as you listen to me, disap-
pointment settling in your face.
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.