Curriculum Vitae

Inspired by Pulitzer Poet Lisel Mueller's poem below, I wrote my own version of a minuscule memoir.

Curriculum Vitae

1) I was born in a Free City, near the North Sea.

2) In the year of my birth, money was shredded into 
confetti. A loaf of bread cost a million marks. Of 
course I do not remember this.

3) Parents and grandparents hovered around me. The 
world I lived in had a soft voice and no claws.

4) A cornucopia filled with treats took me into a building 
with bells. A wide-bosomed teacher took me in.

5) At home the bookshelves connected heaven and earth.

6) On Sundays the city child waded through pinecones 
and primrose marshes, a short train ride away.

7) My country was struck by history more deadly than 
earthquakes or hurricanes.

8) My father was busy eluding the monsters. My mother 
told me the walls had ears. I learned the burden of secrets.

9) I moved into the too bright days, the too dark nights 
of adolescence.

10) Two parents, two daughters, we followed the sun 
and the moon across the ocean. My grandparents stayed 
behind in darkness.

11) In the new language everyone spoke too fast. Eventually 
I caught up with them.

12) When I met you, the new language became the language 
of love.

13) The death of the mother hurt the daughter into poetry. 
The daughter became a mother of daughters.

14) Ordinary life: the plenty and thick of it. Knots tying 
threads to everywhere. The past pushed away, the future left 
unimagined for the sake of the glorious, difficult, passionate 

15) Years and years of this.

16) The children no longer children. An old man's pain, an 
old man's loneliness.

17) And then my father too disappeared.

18) I tried to go home again. I stood at the door to my 
childhood, but it was closed to the public.

19) One day, on a crowded elevator, everyone's face was younger 
than mine.

20) So far, so good. The brilliant days and nights are 
breathless in their hurry. We follow, you and I.

~ Lisel Mueller

Curriculum Vitae
1) I was born on the plains. A city girl from Dakota, I say, laughing.

2) Second of four children, I had a noisy childhood building forts, swinging from trees, sleeping in a yellow canopy bed and reading stacks of books.

3) We spent honey-colored summers at a lake cabin, swimming off the dock and having boat picnics. 

4) At Catholic school I was earnest and liked tests. I played well with others. There weren't enough hours in the day  to read.

5) Ballet, tennis, soccer, cheerleading, skiing, French class, editing the newspaper kept me busy sampling personas. I didn't rebel too much, but I dreamt of being reckless. 

6) First love, or what I thought was love.

7) At eighteen, I went abroad to live in Istanbul. Just as I was gaining confidence I was treated as a fragile princess.

8) At university, I become more me. Loved and was loved by a good man, but I left him to go love the world.

9) My education continued on the Grand Tour. I then worked at a London off-license learning the wine trade. I lived on smoked salmon sandwiches, champagne, tea. My friends hung in the Royal Portrait Museum.

10) Wound up in San Francisco. Heady, serious love affair. Three years of gleeful, careless melee during the internet boom. Rode the wave and, all too predictably, crashed on the shore.

11) After reading about heartbreak in novels, I suddenly understood personally, physically, to be torn asunder.

12) Napa Valley interlude.

13) Ten nomadic years, stepping up for adventures of any kind. Peered around many corners to find me again. 

14) Love walks in the door. A new chapter began involving a lot of time in Canada, a surprisingly beautiful place. O Canada, I was happy to be embraced.

15) More travels, more poetry, love grows.

16) South American explorations. Sailed to Antarctica to reinvent myself yet again. Walt Whitman was right, I do contain multitudes.

17) Elopement and then proper wedding to a man worth the wait. Life continues to live up to my optimism.

18) Nine months to experience the wonder of pregnancy and then the awe of birth. A perfect tiny person, a little boy, grew inexplicably underneath my heart. Said heart expands a hundredfold.

19) Crystallized moments of daily family life, a new home, the joys of writing. 

20) The wide world beckons,  Come, come, you have seen nothing yet.

1 comment:

  1. Your minuscule memoir is beautifully written, Sarah, and offers such a detailed snapshot of you in such a short space. Thank you so much for sharing!