Poem of the Week: Lisel Mueller's Curriculum Vitae

I have a lot of friends applying to medical school right now (the saddest part is that they are likely to finish before me). In honor of the medical school secondary essay -- a veritable autobiography in most cases, here is a poem by Lisel Mueller. Enjoy.

Curriculum Vitae
by Lisel Mueller


1) I was born in a Free City, near the North Sea.

2) In the year of my birth, money was shredded into

confetti. A loaf of bread cost a million marks. Of

course I do not remember this.

3) Parents and grandparents hovered around me. The

world I lived in had a soft voice and no claws.

4) A cornucopia filled with treats took me into a building

with bells. A wide-bosomed teacher took me in.

5) At home the bookshelves connected heaven and earth.

6) On Sundays the city child waded through pinecones

and primrose marshes, a short train ride away.

7) My country was struck by history more deadly than

earthquakes or hurricanes.

8) My father was busy eluding the monsters. My mother

told me the walls had ears. I learned the burden of secrets.

9) I moved into the too bright days, the too dark nights

of adolescence.

10) Two parents, two daughters, we followed the sun

and the moon across the ocean. My grandparents stayed

behind in darkness.

11) In the new language everyone spoke too fast. Eventually

I caught up with them.

12) When I met you, the new language became the language

of love.

13) The death of the mother hurt the daughter into poetry.

The daughter became a mother of daughters.

14) Ordinary life: the plenty and thick of it. Knots tying

threads to everywhere. The past pushed away, the future left

unimagined for the sake of the glorious, difficult, passionate


15) Years and years of this.

16) The children no longer children. An old man's pain, an

old man's loneliness.

17) And then my father too disappeared.

18) I tried to go home again. I stood at the door to my

childhood, but it was closed to the public.

19) One day, on a crowded elevator, everyone's face was younger

than mine.

20) So far, so good. The brilliant days and nights are

breathless in their hurry. We follow, you and I.


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