“My husband says spring will be early.
He says this every year,
And every year I disagree.
He needs me, the dark side of the planetary equation.
Together we make the equinox.”
Love, Like Salt
by Lisel Mueller
It lies in our hands in crystals
too intricate to decipher
It goes into the skillet
without being given a second thought
It spills on the floor so fine
we step all over it
We carry a pinch behind each eyeball
It breaks out on our foreheads
We store it inside our bodies
in secret wineskins
At supper, we pass it around the table
talking of holidays and the sea.
I read the obits of poets. Google has learned this about me and I don’t have to search it out, the key words – death, poet and Pulitzer are so ingrained on my behind the scene profile that it automatically serves it up to me on daily briefings. Lisel Mueller is not a name I was familiar prior to this week, but when she died at the glorious age of 96 this past month, I stumbled across her obit and then sought out her poetry. I so enjoy finding a poet that I have never heard of before that within reading a few of their poems I instantly find a poem I can’t wait to share with a friend, so perfect are the words to their inner life.
Mueller was forced to flee the Nazi’s when she was fifteen and she lived out the rest of her life in the Midwest, mostly Illinois. She won the Pulitzer in 1976, a talented translator as well as poet, she richly deserved the recognition for her nuanced and sentimental poetry. Mueller’s poetry dwells in quiet places we all exist. It is what I most appreciate in a poet, the ability to illuminate the simple and make simple the complex.
Sometimes, When The Light
By Lisel Mueller
Sometimes, when the light strikes at odd angle
and pulls you back into childhood
and you are passing a crumbling mansion
completely hidden behind old willows
or an empty convent guarded by hemlocks
and giant firs standing hip to hip,
You know again that behind that wall,
under the uncut hair of the willows
something secret is going on,
so marvelous and dangerous
that if you crawled through and saw,
you would die, or be happy forever.