Poetry Friday:Things by Lisel Mueller

Bridget has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at wee words for wee ones.


Because the chair made such a ghastly sound as it was being dragged from one spot in our classroom to another, I asked my student to please lift it by its back instead.  It will be so much quieter, I reasoned, thinking about my gnawing migraine, mostly.

So, of course, he asked. “Its back? The chair has a back?”

Which led to an interesting conversation…and the memory of this poem, which I remembered to look up only after school was long over


by Lisel Mueller

What happened is, we grew lonely
living among the things,
so we gave the clock a face,
the chair a back,
the table four stout legs
which will never suffer fatigue.

We fitted our shoes with tongues
as smooth as our own
and hung tongues inside bells
so we could listen
to their emotional language,

and because we loved graceful profiles
the pitcher received a lip,
the bottle a long, slender neck.

Even what was beyond us
was recast in our image;
we gave the country a heart,
the storm an eye,
the cave a mouth
so we could pass into safety.


21 thoughts on “Poetry Friday:Things by Lisel Mueller

  1. What a strange and wonderful poem! I love etmology, so I’ve always been fascinated by the words we use, their history and meaning. You can also start to understand how confusing it can be to learn a new language when you think about how odd it is that clocks have faces and shoes have tongues! 🙂

  2. Hoping your Friday is better for you,Tara! This is fabulous. I’m so glad you shared it. We humans take power over many things, including the inanimate, don’t we?

  3. Thank you for sharing Lisel Mueller’s poem, Tara. I hadn’t read it before, but I will remember it. I love that an organic classroom experience jogged your memory. We are lucky it did. =)

  4. 20-20 Hindsight. I’ve got it, too. Perfect comeback…a day later. I’ll save this poem — seems like a fun one for Thursday annotations. (Is that your idea I borrowed, or Margaret’s? We did it for the first time this week. It was a success that I think will build momentum and steam.)

  5. Tell me how to do annotations with 2nd grade?! Or is our “illustrate anything that the poem makes you think/feel/wonder” the same kind of thing?

    Anyway, lovely, lovely poem to discover, and isn’t it surprising what we find they don’t know, even at 12? Also, your top windowsky photo is beautiful.

    • For second grade-words you love, draw the pictures this poem makes you imagine. I think it would be more visual than anything – and just a few lines about what the poem reminds you of.

  6. This reminded me of an award-winning Filipino picturebook that is predicated upon the very idea of household things being sentient – with the towel having an illicit affair with pants, and shoes’ wagging tongue spreading gossip. It was all quite nicely put together. I love that there is a poem which speaks to that as well.

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