12 October 2005


On mondays a woman at work sends out a poem to the entire college. The one this week particularly struck me and I thought I'd share it here.

Hi everyone,

In general, as Americans, we tend to like things. Our stores are filled to the brim, shelves over-flowing with color and variety. Our homes are sometimes so stuffed with objects, we rent space elsewhere to hold it all. However, if you ask people fleeing a storm or fire what they most want to take with them, it is usually the rare thing, something not purchased but passed from person to person--photos, a grandmother's ring, a father's hammer, a child's drawing. And it is not until we lose everything, we sometimes realize the true value of what we have.

This week I offer you a poem about things by Lisel Mueller, who moved to America at the age of 15 when her father was forced to flee the Nazis. Mueller wrote some poetry in college in her second language, English, but it wasn't until she was 29 and lost her mother (who was only 54 when she died) that Mueller really began writing poems. "Once that was unlocked, that need, I knew that that was what I had to do the rest of my life," she said in a 1997 interview (upon receiving the Pulitzer). Hope you enjoy the poem and have a great week!


What happened is, we grew lonely
living among the things,
so we gave the clock a face,
the chair a back,
the table four stout legs
which will never suffer fatigue.

We fitted our shoes with tongues
as smooth as our own
and hung tongues inside bells
so we could listen
to their emotional language,

and because we loved graceful profiles
the pitcher received a lip,
the bottle a long, slender neck.

Even what was beyond us
was recast in our image;
we gave the country a heart,
the storm an eye,
the cave a mouth
so we could pass into safety.

--Lisel Mueller