Lisel Mueller

(February 8, 1924)

Immortality


In Sleeping Beauty's castle
the clock strikes one hundred years
and the girl in the tower returns to the world.
So do the servants in the kitchen,
who don't even rub their eyes.
The cook's right hand, lifted
an exact century ago,
completes its downward arc
to the kitchen boy's left ear;
the boy's tensed vocal cords
finally let go
the trapped, enduring whimper,
and the fly, arrested mid-plunge
above the strawberry pie
fulfills its abiding mission
and dives into the sweet, red glaze.

As a child I had a book
with a picture of that scene.
I was too young to notice
how fear persists, and how
the anger that causes fear persists,
that its trajectory can't be changed
or broken, only interrupted.
My attention was on the fly:
that this slight body
with its transparent wings
and life-span of one human day
still craved its particular share
of sweetness, a century later.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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  • Colleen Courtney (5/17/2014 5:34:00 PM)

    Starts like a fairytale and ends on a disturbing but honest epiphany....another great poem by the poet. (Report) Reply

  • William Goldman (5/8/2014 6:29:00 PM)

    In the best of these poems, something dangerous, disturbing, hovers beneath the words - this is not surprising when you reflect on her life & background. This quality helps to give the poems just enough complexity and potential contradiction to make them beautiful. (Report) Reply

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