WHEN I AM ASKED

by Lisel Mueller

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.

 

 

 

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.