U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser has committed to a new series of columns that highlight poetry and its importance in everyday life. From time to time we’ll share the reprinted columns here, and provide you a chance to add your comments. This week’s offering takes a new look at the often cliched and tired metaphors used to invent poems about love.
American Life in Poetry: Column 016
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
There are thousands upon thousands of poems about love, many of them using predictable words, predictable rhymes. Ho-hum. But here the Illinois poet Lisel Mueller talks about love in a totally fresh and new way, in terms of table salt.
Love Like Salt
It lies in our hands in crystals
too intricate to decipher
It goes into the skillet
without being given a second thought
It spills on the floor so fine
we step all over it
We carry a pinch behind each eyeball
It breaks out on our foreheads
We store it inside our bodies
in secret wineskins
At supper, we pass it around the table
talking of holidays and the sea.
Reprinted from “Alive Together: New and Selected Poems” (LSU Press, 1996) by permission of the author. Poem copyright (c) 1996 by Lisel Mueller. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.