American Life in Poetry: Column 085


The Illinois poet, Lisel Mueller, is one of our country's finest writers,
and the following lines, with their grace and humility, are
of her poems of quiet celebration.

In November

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 (c) 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. ******************************