Something Secret Is Going On

L Mueller
Lisel Mueller (1924 – 2020)

“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.”

Lisel Mueller

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.