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Why We Tell Stories Analysis

Author: poem of Lisel Mueller Type: poem Views: 7

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For Linda Foster


Because we used to have leaves

and on damp days

our muscles feel a tug,

painful now, from when roots

pulled us into the ground

and because our children believe

they can fly, an instinct retained

from when the bones in our arms

were shaped like zithers and broke

neatly under their feathers

and because before we had lungs

we knew how far it was to the bottom

as we floated open-eyed

like painted scarves through the scenery

of dreams, and because we awakened

and learned to speak


We sat by the fire in our caves,

and because we were poor, we made up a tale

about a treasure mountain

that would open only for us

and because we were always defeated,

we invented impossible riddles

only we could solve,

monsters only we could kill,

women who could love no one else

and because we had survived

sisters and brothers, daughters and sons,

we discovered bones that rose

from the dark earth and sang

as white birds in the trees


Because the story of our life

becomes our life

Because each of us tells

the same story

but tells it differently

and none of us tells it

the same way twice

Because grandmothers looking like spiders

want to enchant the children

and grandfathers need to convince us

what happened happened because of them

and though we listen only

haphazardly, with one ear,

we will begin our story

with the word and


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