Tuesday, November 10, 2015


                           THE MUSE

                                 "Are you the one who came
                To Dante, who dictated the pages of Hell
                To him?" I ask her. She replies, "I am."

                                                                       -- Anna Akhmatova 

across ninety years    half a world away    I'm
there    that singular room with Akhmatova
we wait beneath the towering Russian night 
until    tossing aside her shadow-riddled veil
the "beloved guest" overwhelmingly arrives

Akhmatova receives the stringent messenger
she can't know    although she already knows
The Muse will dictate to her the harsh pages
of another hell    keening the cruelest agony 
a mother who cannot save her doomed child

when the austere Invisibles command a life
the soul ignites    ravished by that reckoning
we remain small    fractured and incomplete
but some Power--vast   unafraid   imperious!
possesses us    cascading through the cracks


                             The Muse

     Browsing in the poetry section of a book store, my hand happened to pull from the shelf a selection of poems by the great 20th Century Russian lyric poet Anna Akhmatova; and the book "happened" to fall open to her 1924 poem "The Muse." The poem stunned me, especially the lines I quote at the beginning of my own poem "The Muse", which I wrote in response to hers. A few days later I drew my vision of Akhmatova's Muse, and in the process had another revelation: Dante's Muse, and Akhmatova's, and my own Muse, are one and the same. 

                       Night Comes On

one bright star glitters low in the west--
     caught at the fringe of a long dark cloud
         the sky deepens from blue to indigo

two dark clouds sprawl low in the west
     a vee of geese wings toward the horizon
         the sky deepens as night comes on

the sky deepens    night comes on as Earth
     peers like a watery eye through the void
        one bright star glitters low in the west

seven wild geese arrow toward the horizon
     over the streetlights and crouched houses
        the sky deepens from indigo to black

a last faint glimmer of dusk drains away
     cold wind splinters into a thousand stars!
        the roofless sky deepens    night comes on


                   Night Comes On

         One night, as I left work, I looked up as a vee of geese winged across the evening sky. That vision stayed with me, until it found expression in the poem "Night Comes On." Then, about a week later, both vision and poem inspired my drawing. Too often, we look, but we don't see. This time I did both, and so was reminded how astonishingly beautiful our world can be.


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