Poem : When I Am Asked

We always lament the rain when we want sunshine, when we want the weather to match our mood. There are times, though, when a sunny day doesn’t quite touch our emotions, either. It’s June. Six months into the new year. It doesn’t seem possible. And I’m happy for sun and warm weather and dresses and the way that I always feel younger and the days always seem longer in summer. But this season can also feel nonchalant, detached, like the world around me has forgotten. I know it’s all in the process of grieving… and maybe that’s why I find such deep comfort in words, and this poem in particular.

When I Am Asked
By Lisel Mueller

When I am asked
how I began writing poems,
I talk about the indifference of nature.

It was soon after my mother died,
a brilliant June day,
everything blooming.

I sat on a gray stone bench
in a lovingly planted garden,
but the day lilies were as deaf
as the ears of drunken sleepers
and the roses curved inward.
Nothing was black or broken
and not a leaf fell
and the sun blared endless commercials
for summer holidays.

I sat on a gray stone bench
ringed with the ingenue faces
of pink and white impatiens
and placed my grief
in the mouth of language,
the only thing that would grieve with me.

Inspired By.

Most commencement speeches are so overrated. I know for sure that I slept through my college keynote at one point, until the speaker broke into operatic song. Then I was awake and so ready to walk across that stage and be done already for the love of God. But looking back, it all went by too quickly and everything from that day is a blur with a few freeze frame photos thrown in for good measure.

And now here I am, three years later, and this week I’ve been mulling over hard decisions about work and career stuff and wishing I could just go back to that moment a few years ago when everything felt simple and possible.

Okay, maybe the “everything simple and possible” part is an exaggeration. But I could really use a pep talk, a commencement speech for this time when things are changing and I have to try something new. The average day doesn’t allow for the pomp and circumstance and some highly accomplished “expert” in randomness using sports analogies to encourage me, Carpe Diem! You’re young! Go out and do amazing things!

And so, in honor of my brother who is graduating high school today (omg!), and to give myself and you a little pep in our next steps, here’s a better-than-your-average-commencement-speech round up :

The Opposite of Loneliness.

“The most terrible and beautiful and interesting things happen in a life. For some of you, those things have already happened. Whatever happens to you belongs to you. Make it yours. Feed it to yourself even if it feels impossible to swallow. Let it nurture you, because it will.” – The Future Has an Ancient Heart.

“Don’t wait for some dumb boy to give you closure. You give yourself closure. That’s real. Tie that mess right on up. Buy ice cream if necessary.” – These Things I’ve Learned.

“So what if someone started 8 years before you and it seems like they’ve achieved everything you’ve ever wanted? Start now. Don’t dwell on how far you still have to go. Eight years from now (trust me, that time will fly) the only thing that’ll make a difference is whether or not you got started in the first place and kept going. Compare yourself to you: past, present, and future.” – Good advice for belly dancing, writing and life.

In case you’re ever stuck in a rut of self-loathing, go laugh your ass off at Adventures in Depression with Hyperbole and a Half. No really, do it.

Play to the size of your heart, not the size of the crowd.

And if all else fails, ask yourself : What kind of story are you liv­ing with your life?

Now Carpe Diem! You’re young! Go out and do amazing things.


Poem : Wedded Bliss.

We celebrated the love of two close friends this weekend.
There was talk of wedded bliss,
of forever happiness.

And we took this photo,
and I look at this photo now,

Past the whimsy of floating bubbles,
of sunlight and laughter and dancing and happy tears
and wine at dusk and his dapper suit,
there is a deeper thing.

My fingers can’t quite place it.
My heart can’t quite articulate it.
If you asked me for a road map to that moment,
I couldn’t give you one.
And from here on out we’re following our headlights in the dark…

But three years in,
our lips mouth the words to vows we’ve made before,
and we marvel a little that we’re still here,
still together –
deeper still – we’re best friends.

It is absolutely a choice.
But it’s a little bit of a miracle, too.

(Thanks to Lauren for taking the photo and to Leen for blowing the bubbles!)

Hello, Summer.

I hope you had a lovely long weekend. Mine sure was, with a wedding to celebrate and a hot May sun to lounge in.

I read a book all afternoon on Sunday and let myself ignore obligations to write or work or anything, just for my peace of mind.

And then I tried planting flowers in a pot on my porch, but the squirrels shredded them and flung dirt everywhere and seeing it the next morning my husband just shook his head and scraped it all up and back into the pot and we laughed and shook our fists at wild life, because sometimes we forget its there.

For the holiday, my best friend came over so that we could we dangle our legs in the community pool and talk about relationships and people watch while all the neighbors that I don’t know I live next to bring their kids out to splash around when it’s 95 degrees on Memorial Day.

Chicago winters have us all living like hermits, but come summer, everyone comes out of their caves to socialize and feel sun on skin and spend time together.

Hello, Summer. I’m glad you’re here.