Lisel Mueller

Lisel Mueller Poems

Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
...

When the moon was full they came to the water.
some with pitchforks, some with rakes,
some with sieves and ladles,
and one with a silver cup.
...

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,
...

The laughter of women sets fire
to the Halls of Injustice
and the false evidence burns
to a beautiful white lightness
...

What happened is, we grew lonely
living among the things,
so we gave the clock a face,
the chair a back,
...

For Linda Foster


I
...

If an inaudible whistle
blown between our lips
can send him home to us,
then silence is perhaps
...

Speaking of marvels, I am alive
together with you, when I might have been
alive with anyone under the sun,
when I might have been Abelard's woman
...

In 1936, a child
in Hitler's Germany,
what did I know about the war in Spain?
Andalusia was a tango
...

I. Insomnia

The bulb at the front door burns and burns.
If it were a white rose it would tire of blooming
...

For Lucy, who called them "ghost houses."


Someone was always leaving
...

Such insignificance: a glance
at your record on the doctor's desk
or a letter not meant for you.
How could you have known? It's not true
...

You have read War and Peace.
Now here is Sister Carrie,
not up to Tolstoy; still
it will second the real world:
...

1992

1) I was born in a Free City, near the North Sea.
...

Jenny, your mind commands
kingdoms of black and white:
you shoulder the crow on your left,
the snowbird on your right;
...

The moon lies on the river
like a drop of oil.
The children come to the banks to be healed
of their wounds and bruises.
...

Our trees are aspens, but people
mistake them for birches;
they think of us as characters
in a Russian novel, Kitty and Levin
...

Sometimes, when the light strikes at odd angles
and pulls you back into childhood
...

1.
Because I exist.
...

This is not fantasy, this is our life.
We are the characters
who have invaded the moon,
...

Lisel Mueller Biography

an American poet. She was born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1924 and immigrated to America at the age of 15. Her father, Fritz Neumann, was a professor at Evansville College. Her mother died in 1953. "Though my family landed in the Midwest, we lived in urban or suburban environments," she once wrote. She and her husband, Paul Mueller (d. 2001) built a home in Lake Forest, Illinois in the 1960s, where they raised two daughters and lived for many years. Mueller currently resides in a retirement community in Chicago. Her poems are extremely accessible, yet intricate and layered. While at times whimsical and possessing a sly humor, there is an underlying sadness in much of her work. She graduated from the University of Evansville in 1944 and has taught at the University of Chicago, Elmhurst College in Illinois, and Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont. Mueller has written book reviews for the Chicago Daily News.)

The Best Poem Of Lisel Mueller

Monet Refuses The Operation

Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don't see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
wisteria separate
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolves
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don't know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and change our bones, skin, clothes
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.

Lisel Mueller Comments

Patricia Lamb 24 August 2013

It's my Birthday, it's Christmas, it's all the best days of the year in one- I am as excited as any child on that day- because I have just discovered your works Lisel- out with Neruda, in with Mueller, my new favourite poet- oh yum and yum and yum. Delicious- how have I not met you till now? Excuse me now- off to hunt for your books -such mouthwatering anticipation, such a feast to sit down to. Thankyou thankyou thankyou, Lady.

2 3 Reply
William Goldman 08 May 2014

Of Monet refuses the Operation, I like the line Doctor, if only you could see how heaven pulls earth into its arms

4 1 Reply
David Harris 08 May 2014

I loved Monet refuses the operation. It rings so many bells - bells I have only discovered in the decade or so since I retired and have time for reflection. It's the time when old age has led me to focus on what is really valuable in life, and imagination and dreams are right at the top of the list - up there with love.

3 1 Reply
David H. Partington 08 May 2014

Finally! A contemporary, or modern, poet whose work appeals to me. Thank you.

2 2 Reply
Claudia Moline 08 May 2012

Thanks for sending me one of her poems. I'm only discovering her today and mean to keep on reading her from now on. Loved what I've read so far. Subtle, moving, wise.High quality literature.

3 1 Reply
Ahmed Kamal Khusro 08 September 2020

This is pure poetry. By the Grace of Allah, she is able to combine emotion and intelligence in a unique and creative way. Here metaphors are sharp and real, and bristle with meaning. I like her poetry, Alhamdolillah.

0 0 Reply
Maria Stracke 22 December 2019

I m a friend and neighbor

2 0 Reply
Mahtab Bangalee 20 February 2019

Lisel Mueller the name of FULL MOON of literature

2 0 Reply
Susan Hill 09 May 2014

I'd just finished writing a lyrical letter to my grandmother (dead for over thirty years) about how the world is becoming more transparent and mystical since I've grown older and am now a grandmother when I read Mueller's poem. Lisel Mueller captured the beauty of aging-able to see, finally, the gracefulness that seems to magically appear. That we could not see the world in such poetic beauty when we were young, I now understand. I refuse the operation to restore the sight of youth, as well.

1 2 Reply
Pam Crane 08 May 2014

'Monet Refuses the Operation is so utterly beautiful, I want to share it with my Writers' Club. What a sensitive and expressive poet is Lisel!

4 1 Reply

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