Alive Together

Speaking of marvels, I am alive

together with you, when I might have been

alive with anyone under the sun,

when I might have been Abelard’s woman

or the whore of a Renaissance pop

or a peasant wife with not enough food

and not enough love, with my children

dead of the plague. I might have slept

in an alcove next to the man

with the golden nose, who poked it

into the business of stars,

or sewn a starry flag

for a general with wooden teeth.

I might have been the exemplary Pocahontas

or a woman without a name

weeping in Master’s bed

for my husband, exchanged for a mule,

my daughter, lost in a drunken bet.

I might have been stretched on a totem pole

to appease a vindictive god

or left, a useless girl-child,

to die on a cliff. I like to think

I might have been Mary Shelley

in love with a wrong-headed angel,

or Mary’s friend. I might have been you.

This poem is endless, the odds against us are endless,

our chances of being alive together

statistically nonexistent;

still we have made it, alive in a time

when rationalists in square hats

and hatless Jehovah’s Witnesses

agree it is almost over,

alive with our lively children

who–but for endless ifs–

might have missed out on being alive

together with marvels and follies

and longings and lies and wishes

and error and humor and mercy

and journeys and voices and faces

and colors and summers and mornings

and knowledge and tears and chance.

Liesel Mueller