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Occasional Poem — Lisel Mueller

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Late Hours

On summer nights the world
moves within earshot
on the interstate with its swish
and growl, an occasional siren
that sends chills through us.
Sometimes, on clear, still nights,
voices float into our bedroom,
lunar and fragmented,
as if the sky had let them go
long before our birth.

In winter we close the windows
and read Chekov,
nearly weeping for his world.

What luxury, to be so happy
that we can grieve
over imaginary lives.

There are things this poem does which I like, and it does them well, which is why I like this poem.

I especially like the description of the voices as “lunar and fragmented/as if the sky had let them go long before our birth.” Fantastic — simple, strong words used to evoke a feeling of momentousness.

And the final stanza is overflowing with pith. You want pith? Feast on that.

My only complaint is the line “that sends chills through us.” It’s too abrupt and sort of kills off the rhythm of the opening image. 03971semajmeopcco

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Tuesday, January 15, 2008 5:12 pm

    This is a beautiful poem and I agree with most of what you say. She has captured those wonderful feelings, particularly the last stanza, that we all have but, being overwhelmed or undertalented, are unable to put into words.

    Don’t you think, though, that the line “that sends chills through us” is supposed to be stark, cutting through us the way the sirens send chills through the poet and her lover?

    A lovely piece. Thanks for sharing.

  2. James17930 permalink
    Thursday, January 17, 2008 12:15 am

    Maybe, but if it’s meant to cut like that I would want to see it as the end of a stanza or as a line on its own.

    Actually, seeing as the ‘Sometimes’ which starts the next line is capitalized, that really should be the beginning of a new stanza.

    Maybe it’s a typo from the book I got it from.

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