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American Literature, by Lisel Mueller

Poets and storytellers

move into the vacancies

Edward Hopper left them.

They settle down in blank spaces,

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where the light has been scoured and bleached

skull-white, and nothing grows

except absence. Where something is missing,

the man a woman waits for,

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or furniture in a room

stripped like a hospital bed

after the patient has died.

Such bereft interiors

are just what they’ve been looking for,

the writers, who come with their baggage

of dowsing rods and dog-eared books,

their uneasy family photographs,

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their lumpy beds, their predilection

for starting fires in empty rooms.

From “Alive Together,” by Lisel Mueller (Louisiana State University Press: 223 pp., $23.95). Reprinted by permission. Mueller is the winner of the 1997 Pulitzer Prize in poetry.


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