“Immortality” by Lisel Mueller
Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools, Hosted by Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2001-2003
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, who don't even rub their eyes. The cook's right hand, lifted an exact century ago, completes its downward arc to the kitchen boy's left ear; the boy's tensed vocal cords finally let go the trapped, enduring whimper, and the fly, arrested mid-plunge above the strawberry pie, fulfills its abiding mission and dives into the sweet, red glaze. As a child I had a book with a picture of that scene. I was too young to notice how fear persists, and how the anger that causes fear persists, that its trajectory can't be changed or broken, only interrupted. My attention was on the fly; that this slight body with its transparent wings and lifespan of one human day still craved its particular share of sweetness, a century later.
from Alive Together: New & Selected Poems, 1996
Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, LA
Copyright 2001 by Lisel Mueller.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of Louisiana State University Press from Alive Together: New & Selected Poems, 1996. Copyright 1996 by Lisel Mueller. For further permissions information, contact Permissions Manager, Louisiana State University Press, P.O. Box 25053, Baton Rouge, LA 70894-5053, www.lsu.edu/lsupress.
About the Poet
Lisel Mueller (1924- ) teaches in the MFA Writing program at Goddard College. She is the author of 12 poetry collections, including Alive Together: New and Selected Poems (Louisiana State University Press, 1996), which won the Pulitzer Prize.
Learn more about Lisel Mueller at The Poetry Foundation.