Ted Kooser: American life in poetry July 14, 2013

Ted Kooser: American life in poetry July 14, 2013

Here's an observant and thoughtful poem by Lisel Mueller about the way we've assigned human characteristics to the inanimate things about us. Mueller lives in Illinois and is one of our most distinguished poets.

Things

What happened is, we grew lonely

living among the things,

so we gave the clock a face,

the chair a back,

the table four stout legs

which will never suffer fatigue.

We fitted our shoes with tongues

as smooth as our own

and hung tongues inside bells

so we could listen

to their emotional language,

and because we loved graceful profiles

the pitcher received a lip,

the bottle a long, slender neck.

Even what was beyond us

was recast in our image;

we gave the country a heart,

the storm an eye,

the cave a mouth

so we could pass into safety.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (http://www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It also is supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright 1996 by Mueller. Poem reprinted by permission of Louisiana State University Press from "Alive Together" by Mueller. Introduction copyright 2013 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Kooser, served as U.S. Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004 to '06.

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