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.