American Life in Poetry: Column 085
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006
The Illinois poet, Lisel Mueller, is one of our country's finest writers, and the following lines, with their grace and humility, are representative of her poems of quiet celebration.
Outside the house the wind is howling
and the trees are creaking horribly.
This is an old story
with its old beginning,
as I lay me down to sleep.
But when I wake up, sunlight
has taken over the room.
You have already made the coffee
and the radio brings us music
from a confident age. In the paper
bad news is set in distant places.
Whatever was bound to happen
in my story did not happen.
But I know there are rules that cannot be broken.
Perhaps a name was changed.
A small mistake. Perhaps
a woman I do not know
is facing the day with the heavy heart
that, by all rights, should have been mine.
Reprinted from "Alive Together: New and Selected Poems," Louisiana State University Press, 1996, by permission of the author. Poem copyright © 1996 by Lisel Mueller. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.