surfacing with lisel mueller

I chose this week’s poem “In Praise of Surfaces” by Lisel Mueller in hopes of providing some further uplift after last week’s election. I say uplift but don’t mean dismissal or acceptance, words that keep arising in the conversations between my wife and I late into the night. Some part of us has grown quiet and we keep talking to bring it back.

Mueller’s poem is fitting as it centers on praise, which is a similar kind of reaching out. In each section of the poem, Mueller’s speaker displays a deft sensitivity not only to touch but to the ways language can touch such “surfaces.” If, as the speaker notes, “one flesh is all / the mystery we were promised,” then one praises mystery in praising the body’s surfaces. This urgency is carried through down through the final section’s skin diver conceit, where effort is placed behind the need for the speaker to “collect” the beloved  “rock by wet rock” and word by word.


In Praise of Surfaces – Lisel Mueller


When I touch you
with hands or mouth,
I bless your skin,
the sweet rind
through which you breathe,
the only part
I can process.  Even
that branch of you
which moves inside me
does not deliver your soul:
one flesh is all
the mystery we were promised.


“To learn about the invisible,
look at the visible,” says
the Talmud.  I have seen you
for so long, you are
ground into the walls,
so long I can’t remember
your face when you’re away,
so long I have to look
each night when you come home
at the tall surprise you bring
me, time and time again.


Words too are surfaces
scraped or shaken loose.
When I listen to you
I pick up rocks,
shells, algae
brought up from darkness.
Sometimes I
come close to catching
a fish bare-handed;
angling, I always fail.
No skin diver, I
could never reach bottom;
rock by wet rock,
I collect you.


Happy collecting!


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Everything We Think We Hear by Jose Angel Araguz

Everything We Think We Hear

by Jose Angel Araguz

Giveaway ends December 04, 2016.

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