Love Like Salt

Love Like Salt

 by Lisel Mueller 1996

It lies in our hands in crystals
too intricate to decipher

It goes into the skillet
without being given a second thought

It spills on the floor so fine
we step all over it

We carry a pinch behind each eyeball
It breaks out on our foreheads

We store it inside our bodies
in secret wineskins

At supper, we pass it around the table
talking of holidays and the sea.

Summary of Love Like Salt

  • Popularity of “Love like Salt”: “Love like Salt” is a descriptive poem by Lisel Mueller, one of the prolific German-born American poet, translator and academic teacher. First published in Alive Together: New and Selected Poems in 1966, the poem speaks about the way we perceive love in our lives. Using various lifelike examples, the poet states that we often misuse love and make our lives miserable. Although the poem revolves around the simple phenomenon of love, the speaker’s distinct views of unique feeling make it mesmerizing.
  • “Love like Salt” As a Representative of Love: The poem beautifully explains the idea of love that encompasses a range of positive mental and emotional states. It begins when the speaker compares love with tiny grains of salt, implying love is hard to understand. Different people handle it differently as it makes some sad and some cry, and sometimes it makes some stand at a point where they deliberately throw it away. People do not think wisely while giving their hearts away, nor do they act wisely when they are in love with someone. Although love is kept at secret places in our bodies, yet it is meant to be expressed. The poet’s advice is that people should show affection for each other by doing little acts of kindness such as arranging a lovely supper to talk about the unforgettable moments of life.
  • Major Themes in “Love like Salt”: Love and its impacts on human beings is the central idea of the poem. Throughout the poem, the poet tries to explain that love is hard to understand, but once we understand its depth and uniqueness, we can find happiness even in the slightest things of our lives. By comparing love to salt, she sheds light on the delicacy and fragility of this unique emotion. In other words, she is trying to reinforce the idea that if we do not handle it carefully, we may endure catastrophic situations in life. Although it is a complex feeling, yet it can bring unbound joys to us.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “Love like Salt”

literary devices, though simple terms, have matchless impacts on poetic pieces. Lisel Mueller has shown her skill in using these devices in a different way such as given below in the analysis.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /e/ in “We carry a pinch behind each eyeball” and the sound of /o/ in “It breaks out on our foreheads.”
  2. Anaphora: It refers to the repetition of a word or expression in the first part of some verses. Lisel Mueller has repeated the word “we” in sixth and seventh lines of the poem to emphasize the point such as;

“We step all over it
We carry a pinch behind each eyeball.”

  1. Allegory: It is a figure of speech in which abstract ideas and principles are described in terms of characters, figures, and events. “Love Like Salt” shows the use of allegory by presenting the main idea of how love can lead us to catastrophic situations if not handled carefully.
  2. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /r/ in “It breaks out on our foreheads” and the sound of /t/ in “At supper, we pass it around the table.”
  3. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it rolls over to the next line. For example;

“We store it inside our bodies
in secret wineskins
At supper, we pass it around the table
talking of holidays and the sea.”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Lisel Mueller has used imagery in this poem such as “We carry a pinch behind each eyeball”, “At supper, we pass it around the table” and “We store it inside our bodies.”
  2. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between the objects that are different in nature. The poet has used an extended metaphor of love to express her ideas.
  3. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. The comparison of love with crystal salt symbolizes its uniqueness, delicacy, and fragility.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “Love like Salt”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. In this poem there are no poetic devices used.

  1. Free Verse: Free verse is a type of poetry that does not contain patterns of rhyme or meter. This is a free-verse poem with no strict rhyme or meter.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are useful when talking about the ways we can bring happiness in our lives.

We store it inside our bodies
in secret wineskins
At supper, we pass it around the table
talking of holidays and the sea.”