Lisel Mueller - “Another Version”

Our trees are aspens, but people 
mistake them for birches; 
they think of us as characters 
in a Russian novel, Kitty and Levin 
living contentedly in the country. 
Our friends from the city watch the birds 
and rabbits feeding together 
on top of the deep, white snow. 
(We have Russian winters in Illinois, 
but no sleigh bells, possums instead of wolves, 
no trusted servants to do our work.) 
As in a Russian play, an old man 
lives in our house, he is my father; 
he lets go of life in such slow motion, 
year after year, that the grief 
is stuck inside me, a poisoned apple 
that won't go up or down. 
But like the three sisters, we rarely speak 
of what keeps us awake at night; 
like them, we complain about things 
that don't really matter and talk 
of our pleasures and of the future: 
we tell each other the willows 
are early this year, hazy with green. 

“Another Version” appeared in Alive Together:  New and Selected Poems (Louisiana State University Press, 1996).  Copyright © 1996 by Lisel Mueller.