1 Insomnia (from Five for Country Music) by Lisel Mueller
Unable to Sleep
Unable to sleep
Midnight’s starlit music plays
Lisel Mueller (1924 -2020) German-born American poet known for her warm introspective poetry. She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1997 for her volume Alive Together: New and Selected Poems.
Mueller fled Nazi Germany for the United States with her mother and sister in 1939.
Her father had been a political dissident and had already left Europe, in 1937; he acquired a professorship. It was those early experiences that inspired themes pertaining to a cultural and family history in her poems.
The death of her mother in 1953 prompted Mueller to begin writing in earnest. In “When I Am Asked” she wrote,
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.
Drawn to the modernist school of writing, Mueller was influenced by such poets as W.H. Auden, T.S. Eliot, and Edna St. Vincent Millay. Mueller’s lyrical poetry bends toward the mythological, depicting fantastic characters and dreamlike milieus with the sturdy, accessible diction often found in folklore.
Poem 1 Attribution © Lisel Mueller, 1 Insomnia (Excerpt – Five for Country Music)
Poem 2 Senryū Attribution Goff James, Unable to Sleep
Copyright (c) 2021 Goff James – All Rights Reserved
Bio Attribution Reference https://www.britannica.com/biography/Lisel-Mueller
Photo 1 Attribution © (Photographer Unstated), Lisel Mueller, (Date Unstated)
Source Attribution https://mypoeticside.com/poets/lisel-mueller-poems
Painting Attribution © Emma Vakarelova, Insomnia, (Date Unstated)
Source Attribution https://www.saatchiart.com/art/Painting-Insomnia/297373/2586195/view
Five for Country Music by Lisel Mueller
The bulb at the front door burns and burns.
If it were a white rose it would tire of blooming
through another endless night.
The moon knows the routine;
it beats the bushes from east to west
and sets empty-handed. Again the one
she is waiting for has outrun the moon.
II. Old Money
The spotted hands shake as they polish the coins.
The shiny penny goes under the tongue,
the two silver pieces
weighted by pyramids
will shut down the eyes.
All the rest is paper,
useless in any world but this.
III. Home Movie
She knows that walk, that whistle, that knock.
It’s the black wolf who sticks
his floured paw underneath the door.
She tries not to open. One look at his face
and she’ll drop the gun. He will pick it up
and turn it on her where she waits,
her eyes shining, her hands over her head.
IV. Golden Boy
Whitewashed, the eyes refuse you.
And so the mouth must be serene,
the muscles play, the body
take an easy stance
to divert you from the two
where someone has died.
V. Washing Day
Each year her laundry line gets lighter.
One by one they disappear,
ten little Indians. They take their socks,
their jeans, their stiff plaid shirts.
Above the Ford on its concrete blocks,
striped and zippered,
her cotton dress flutters on and on.
Thank you for your visit.
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