Your father’s mustache

Poetry is the medium in which inventive, expressive use of language is most at the forefront. Usually this is in support of conveying an idea, a feeling, a situation or an emotion, but sometimes the use of language is the whole point of the poem. Today’s poem is a case in point. Enjoy Lisel Mueller’s “The Possessive Case”…

The Possessive Case

Your father’s mustache
My brother’s keeper
La plume de ma tante
Le monocle de mon oncle
His Master’s Voice
Son of a bitch
Charley’s Aunt
Lady Chatterley’s Lover
The Prince of Wales
The Duchess of Windsor
The Count of Monte Christo
The Emperor of Ice Cream
The Marquis de Sade
The Queen of the Night
Mozart’s Requiem
Beethoven’s Ninth
Bach’s B-Minor Mass
Schubert’s Unfinished
Krapp’s Last Tape
Custer’s Last Stand
Howards End
Finnegans Wake
The March of Time
The Ides of March
The Auroras of Autumn
The winter of our discontent
The hounds of spring
The Hound of Heaven
Dante’s Inferno
Vergil’s Aeneid
Homer’s Iliad
The Fall of the City
The Decline of the West
The Birth of a Nation
The Declaration of Independence
The ride of Paul Revere
The Pledge of Allegiance
The Spirit of ’76
The Age of Reason
The Century of the Common Man
The Psychopathology of Everyday Life
Portnoy’s Complaint
Whistler’s Mother
The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi
The whore of Babylon
The Bride of Frankenstein
The French Lieutenant’s Woman
A Room of One’s Own
Bluebeard’s Castle
Plato’s cave
Santa’s workshop
Noah’s ark
The House of the Seven Gables
The Dance of the Seven Veils
Anitra’s Dance
The Moor’s Pavane
My Papa’s Waltz
Your father’s mustache

– Lisel Mueller

From <;


So here is the poet having fun with language, by basically listing out examples of the use of the possessive case. It is light, it is fun, there is no message or big idea in the poem, but you can read it with a smile on your face and just enjoy the fun of it.

It is one of those poems where the simplicity of the idea may make you think, “Well I could have written that…”, which is true until you think of the process – 1) have the idea 2)find the examples, 3)put them together in an order which makes sense rhythmically and ends up in the place they started 4) revise, revise, revise. In fact, there is a lot of poetic art in a piece like this.

I have a couple of minor issues with the poem – the spelling of mustache in the first line bothers me, it looks wrong, but perhaps it is just that it is the American spelling; and I am pretty sure the spelling of Vergil is wrong, I think the accepted spelling is Virgil, for the great writer of the Aeneid.

Also note how each grouping has a theme – the first stanza is family relationships, the second is titles of nobility, and so on through the poem – it all adds to the fun.

Its nice to have a poem with a lighter note from time to time

The Poetry Dude


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