American Life in Poetry: Things by Lisel Mueller

Bookmark and Share

Once a week, on Mondays, a poem arrives in my inbox. This is because a few years ago I signed up to receive the email version of American Life in Poetry, a column that shows up in newspapers around the country. More often than not, they are wonderful poems. The organization was started by Ted Kooser, whose poems I also love, who was the U.S. POET LAUREATE from 2004-2006.


Ted Kooser writes about this week’s poem in American Life in Poetry:

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.




What happened is, we grew lonely

living among the things, clock with a face

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 cave mouth

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.


If you’d like to receive a poem every week from American Life in Poetry go here to sign up. In the meantime, is it just me, or do you also find this poem incredibly touching?


My website.



  1. This poem touched my heart, Susan. I am forever looking for good poetry, and I think I found it. Thank you.



  2. I’m glad the poem touched you, Mary. I think you’ll enjoy subscribing to American Life in Poetry. Sometimes the poems that end up in my inbox just blow me away. A lot of them that are place or nature-centered, which I love.

  3. WOW, I loved that poem and I’m not generally a “poetry person.” (I had the requisite Wordsworth and Longfellow in college and it really didn’t penetrate my teak wood head very far.) Loneliness and the desire to connect are of course themes in my novel and this resonated.

  4. Hi John,
    I think we’re all in recovery from those high school and college English classes that presented poetry that was a chore to understand. To me, a good poem is one that captures a snapshot of who we are as people today. “Loneliness and a desire to connect” are very relevant right now, I think. Thanks for connecting! :-)


  1. What Drives Me NUTSSusan Gabriel - […] that someone had the skill and guts to write down their experience. I found this little jewel in American …

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Pin It on Pinterest


Share This

Share this post with your friends!