Saturday

Apr. 19, 2003

Reading the Brothers Grimm to Jenny

by Lisel Mueller

SATURDAY, 19 APRIL 2003
Listen
(RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "Reading the Brothers Grimm to Jenny," by Lisel Mueller from Alive Together: New & Selected Poems (Louisiana State University Press).

Reading the Brothers Grimm to Jenny
Dead means somebody has to kiss you.

Jenny, your mind commands
kingdoms of black and white:
you shoulder the crow on your left
the snowbird on your right;
for you the cinders part
and let the lentils through,
and noise falls into place
as screech or sweet roo-coo,
while in my own, real world
gray foxes and gray wolves
bargain eye to eye,
and the amazing dove
takes shelter under the wing
of the raven to keep dry.

Knowing that you must climb,
one day, the ancient tower
where disenchantment binds
the curls of innocence,
that you must live with power
and honor circumstance,
that choice is what comes true-
O, Jenny, pure in heart,
why do I lie to you?

Why do I read you tales
in which birds speak the truth
and pity cures the blind,
and beauty reaches deep
to prove a royal mind?
Death is a small mistake
there, where the kiss revives;
Jenny, we make just dreams
out of our unjust lives.

Still, when your truthful eyes,
your keen, attentive stare,
endow the vacuous slut
with royalty, when you match
her soul to her shimmering hair,
what can she do but rise
to your imagined throne?
And what can I, but see
beyond the world that is
when, faithful, you insist
I have the golden key-
and learn from you once more
the terror and the bliss,
the world as it might be?


Literary Notes:

The English poet George Gordon Byron, Lord Byron, died on this day in 1824. He was in Greece to aid the war for independence against the Turks when he caught a fever while riding horseback in the rain. His death was hastened by the "bleeding" which was often used to try to cure illnesses in those days. His body was taken to the family vault in England, and his heart and brain were placed in a large urn. Lord Byron had become a hero to the Greeks, and they were devastated by his death. The Greek Prince Mavrocordato issued a proclamation of general mourning. At dawn on April 20, a thirty-seven-gun salute -- one for each of Byron's years -- was fired. Businesses closed for three days, Easter festivities were cancelled, and requiem services were arranged in all major towns. On order of the Prince, black was worn for three weeks.

Early on this day in 1775, the first battle of the American Revolutionary War began when several hundred British troops marched into Lexington, Massachusetts on a mission to capture Patriot munitions. On Lexington Green, 77 minutemen faced 700 British troops. The captain of the minutemen, John Parker, gave the order, "Stand your ground. Don't fire unless fired upon; but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here." From behind a wall a shot was fired by the British, and it became "the shot heard round the world" in Ralph Waldo Emerson's poem, "The Concord Hymn."

It's the birthday of Clifford Berry, born in Gladbrook, Iowa (1918). The young Clifford became enthralled with all things electric, and he built his own radio at the age of 11. Clifford went to Iowa State University and he became co-inventor of the electronic computer. Together with John Vincent Atanasoff, he built the world's first electronic digital computer in 1940.



(Instapaper)

-->

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









«

»

  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook


The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Sharon Olds at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »