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.

– Lisel Mueller

Apologies for the hiatus, folks. Here’s a lovely, lovely poem for my nephew Samarth that talks about the mysteries and wonders that childhood is full of.

We’ve run another poem by Lisel Mueller on the site, Romantics. You can read about Lisel Mueller here and a transcript of an interview with her here.


Love’s language is hyperbole, but whispered,
sibilant similes and promises sotto voce.
It’s easy to imagine you’ve misheard,

the form and content clash, create this weird
distortion like an echo or a tape delay.
Love’s language is hyperbole, but whispered.

On which do you place emphasis: The words?
Or the breath? The farfetched or the foreplay?
It’s easy to imagine you’ve misheard

when objectivity has disappeared
and your lover is getting further carried away.
Love’s language is hyperbole, but whispered

vows? It’s hard to take him at his word,
or hers: Speak up! Proclaim! you want to say.
It’s easy to imagine you’ve misheard,

hard to admit one sharp as you is stirred.
You need to back off, cool down, act blasé.
Love’s language is hyperbole, but whispered.
It’s easy to imagine you’ve misheard.

– Richard Hoffman


I find poems that use repetition compelling when done well. Some poetic forms encourage or even require this – villanelles, for instance, and sestinas. The two lines that recur are both very powerful and disturbing – ‘Love’s language is hyperbole, but whispered’ and ‘It’s easy to imagine that you’ve misheard’. The poem builds in tension until it winds up with those two lines juxtaposed in a finale of sorts.

You can read a bio of Richard Hoffman here, and take a peek at his website here.

Night Workers

All you who are awake in the dark of the night,
all you companions of the one lit window
in the knuckled-down row of sleeping houses,

all you who think nothing of the midnight hour
but by three or four have done your work
and are on the way home, stopping

at traffic lights, even though there is no one
but you in either direction. How different the dark is
when day is coming; you know all this.

All you who have kept awake through the dark of the night
and now go homeward; you, charged with the hospital’s
vending-machine coffee; you working all night at Tesco,

you cleaners and night-club toilet attendants,
all you wearily waiting for buses
driven by more of you, men who paint lines

in the quiet of night, women with babies
roused out of their sleep so often
they’ve given up and stand by their windows

watching the fog of pure neon
weaken at the rainy dawn’s coming.

– Helen Dunmore


An evocative poem about the middle of the night, and the people who inhabit that space.
You can read a biography and critical perspective of her here, and an interview with her here. You can hear her read out some other poems here.