Sometimes, When the Light by Lisel Mueller (guest post)

Once again, Ted Kooser’s column has really struck a cord with me, and once again, they’ve kindly allowed me to republish it here. Mueller’s piece is the perfect way to start the New Year! Enjoy friends and cheers to a great 2012!

American Life in Poetry: Column 354

A wise friend told me that since the Age of Reason we’ve felt we had to explain everything, and
that as a result we’ve forgotten the value of mystery. Here’s a poem by Lisel Mueller that
celebrates mystery. Mueller is a Pulitzer Prize winning poet from Illinois.

Sometimes, When the Light

Sometimes, when the light strikes at odd angles
and pulls you back into childhood

and you are passing a crumbling mansion
completely hidden behind old willows

or an empty convent guarded by hemlocks
and giant firs standing hip to hip,

you know again that behind that wall,
under the uncut hair of the willows

something secret is going on,
so marvelous and dangerous

that if you crawled through and saw,
you would die, or be happy forever.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (,
publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of
Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©1980 by Lisel Mueller, from her most recent book of poems, Alive
Together: New and Selected Poems, Louisiana State University Press, 1996. Poem reprinted by permission
of Lisel Mueller and the publisher. Introduction copyright 2012 by The Poetry Foundation. The
introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the
Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

American Life in Poetry ©2006 The Poetry Foundation
This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.


  1. This is great! I love Ted Kooser's column. I think we are going to see a resurgence of poetry soon. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Jody says:

    Thank you Christine, and I sure hope so (and I agree)! Glad you enjoyed – I will continue to feature Ted Kooser's column from time to time.

    Thank you for reading! I appreciate it!

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