Friday, May 16, 2014

POEM: "Mousai"

                                  Muses, please come charm my mind, as 
                                  I go along the straight road to the grove.


How do the redoubtable sisters fare today?
The Nine who would dance together sweetly
Whose dresses were soaking wet
Everywhere was the scent of flowers
You all went underground
Sandals slapped until there was no sound

In the wind we could still hear you
In the waves of the sea, in the trees
In the firecrackle late at night
In waters laughing in the woods
Outdoors we still heard your song
You had not left, you’d charmed the earth

It was by accident we lost our way
Through too much hatred and guilt
All the bitterness of memory
We couldn’t turn into a single lesson
We couldn’t even win the battle of wisdom
Which still tears at us in hard dreams

Come to us now, Mousai, charm our way
Lend us music, heal our tired minds
Or put us to sleep forever. Charm our bodies
To hear more sound where we thought was silent
Enter us into dark places with your light
We see all that had been hidden, returned.


Stay, Kalliopê, teach us how to listen
How to hear the epic story of the world
Take down the words the winds carry
Remind us events are shaped by the Gods
Breathed by poets, only recorded
In living creatures, one word after the other

The spirit is in everything
In love and fear and heartbreak
In sorrow and pain and in pride
After all, it is the mortal way
That no expense is ever spared
To remind our selves of that

We were taught to avoid the epic
Better to work the short subject, care not
For the grains of sand, the stars in the sky
For understanding the mass graves
We were taught that the unlimited kills
And works destruction upon the infinite

Every moment is part of a great story
It does not evade your close interest
Take papyrus and sharpened stylus
Mix your ink and wine, come closer
Breathe your best, welcome the dawn
Make it done what you promised.


Before an open box of books Kleiô sits
Humming, an open book with nothing writ
Upon but two columns down each page
The personal and the extraordinary
Divided by an imperfect world
She starts to sing her perfect song

How secret the historical world
How clear the lines of harmony
The imprint of sound on the passing day
On the cat, the small metre of the body
In the rhythm, of the tall old grasses
Hear the song that is always singing

Not the story of the victorious or the weak
Made by each other, but in one book
Read the futures of the other
By lack of knowledge, confused
But finally redeemed by all of time
Which is only your history in reverse

How you know what will happen
Even as tired soldiers drop and die
Their leaders contemplating retirement
Boys play war games on computers
Arguing their strategies of growing old
Laugh as they move toward death.


Euterpê with all the world’s flutes
Breathe in me the lyrics that mean something
When I am very bereft of sense, lost
In too much observation, unable to hear
What has suddenly come on me
What moment is always waiting

See the smallest corner and the joint
Hint of smile and next composure
The origins of how you feel before you sleep
The ships you sail on when you dream
Fortunately nothing is too small or too big
Otherwise I know we should disappear

Without pretension, sometimes it hurts
Without acting, that you are somebody else
And you know more than you do, unfreeze
The parts that you don’t recognize
Stretch out bent limbs, move to the fire
You know the shadows of the flame

Music is the fire hiss, crack and wind
Reminders of the terror of living without sight
Breathing with less air than a second ago
You go through your litany of blessings
One round, two rounds, three rounds, four…
Until prayer tells you where.


I am Melpomenê, I wear the cothurnus
I honor Artemis, increase my stature upon the stage
Needs a mask to bring us more tragedy
Reminds us that great men wear their own masks
Reminds us of yet more tragedy and more
It stands before the audience, aieeee!

Appeal to Apollo, God of Light
When you misjudge your step
He shows you wisdom before the drop
Gives eloquence, takes reason away − and kills you
You squandered your best mortal chance
You looked back over your shoulder

No wonder it’s the world’s great fear
Speaking vacantly in public before strangers
Staring without inspiration
Stuttering after a wish list of words
Sorrow coming crashing, vision dimmed
No applause, no applause − then the laughing

When you carry the heavy club of Herakles
Even climbing up on the stage is hard
And the divinity of wine will slow your feet
The mask will protect all foolishness
While you declaim glory and awe and terror
And it is only the middle of the week.


Yes, I’ve got the song and dance, watch me
We link arms, high-step, a-one and a-two
You just sit there happy and watch the pain
It looks so easy, doesn’t it, sitting down?
Terpsikhorê! And my ass is sorer than yours
Cutting a rug is really cutting my shroud

It’s not really like that. The chorus is always us
Dancers are the chorus who’d dance if they could
Without any pause for the spoken word
Cycles of sound catching in the round
People moving their forgotten feet, patched
As the sun is setting, the breezes coming

There’s fire on the stage, nightfall
And more are dancing, there’s singing
Each old dance breaks into the new
The listeners can’t bear to sit anymore
Touching their companions, gazing into
What they know about the hurting of the world

Finally, finally we know stillness is a sham
Only the moving can be at rest
Arguing the distance, approaching the limits
Working with the broom and the shovel
Feeling the golden coin at their feet, lucky
That they found it there at last.


Eratô, you’ve copied the erotic moment
We re-live our most intimate times
You showed us how depiction works
How words mount the page, aflame for
Readership, or the way a book opens up
How a poem makes her think of you

Ardor is mostly memory confused by time
You need me. And I need you. I want you
To take me somewhere I’ve never been before
We’ll be together by the slowing sea, waves
Will not represent any other but us, tumultuous
I won’t lead you by a gentle hand to bed

How it takes you when you don’t expect it
Suddenly a flush of awareness, the stirring
Of the horse, need to enter, expansive
You comprise it all − you have gone erotic
There is only desire to be connected
O what a spinning steady rhythm!

You’ll block all but the most immediate
She’ll be there peeking out from under
And you will remember it wasn’t like this
And you hope you never forget how to get there
And with a shout you find yourself in a distant place
Wherever that could be, neither of you comes back.


She of the sublime hymn, of all moments
Your search in the sacred grove of wonder
Polyhymnia, even-handed, circular, neverending
She loves you more than you love yourself
Never so mysterious that she won’t pay the bill
She looks up at you and smiles she knows

You see her in every crowd, dressed in white
Immaculate and stoned with fresh origin
I guess you could fall in love with her
You could park the car on the footpath
Get out right there and walk up to her
OK she’d even be in the same spot waiting

How do you know what’s going on?
It’s like she speaks without using the words
Tenses and punctuation are unimportant
Around her the world is halting
The parade is stopped, the marchers
Thinking of something they didn’t know

The shopping list you misplaced, wait
The job promotion you missed out on, wait
The anniversary, the school fair, wait
The early appointment you had, wait
Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait
It all will come to you.


Ouraniê looking at stars, almost speechless
After the accident left her with the headache
And a diminished appetite for the news
She still craves what we hear in planets
Singing above the crash of matter, because
Astronomy needs your game away, not at home

She lies on a big flat rock next to a waterfall
One noisy moonless night, warm summertime
Gathered in a rolling nocturne, she swears
Birds are awake and speaking to her
About the lights in the sky, asking questions
She tries to answer not leaving anything out

How do they fly, the stars? And the Moon
Where did she go tonight? What is that Red One?
Why can’t we fly down to it all? What stops us?
They fly because they still love, she tells them
We have created such limits that test our hope
Selênê is also stopped, she sleeps in a cave nearby

Where the moon runs wild through the clouds
Moving in a swirling, shuddering in silver winds
Tiny points of light pulsing hard to a beat
Late night waves taking the message back
I am missing you, come closer to me now
All is music, all is poetry and missing sound.


Thaleia − the banana, the truncated bed
Sure, we laughed until we almost died
But comedy will never taste the same
Recovering the beef steak from the dog
The in-laws in stitches in the kitchen
Bringing it solemnly to the new husband

You say that art isn’t the same but equal to
Arguing a sense of parallel punditry
In the myriad ways the mighty always fall
The ways the impoverished and misinformed
Always fall sooner rather than later
No one bothering to go to and help

Curious we see the tragedy out of you
See the funny side of dread and fear
A wreath, a staff – you could be the snake
That reconnects, confound it here, and then
The calls of distrust by the phones of hope
Jammed lines, people laughing on desperate trains

No tragedy is big enough we won’t repeat
And for that we thank you for light relief
Our dull moments shoved aside for a minute
The shriek of the braking, the oooh of the minions
Your most considerate hour, saying it’s too much
Hoping no one ever laughs again at love.


My lovers, sitting confident on their cards
Licking lips as if we could taste you again −
We do, we tease from you the smallest look
At the late taxi when I turn to you to tie a kiss
You turn away because your hand was good
It was merely the game I played for you

Ladies of song, do me, there is no tomorrow
Spread your love like bees make honey
For there is no other time like now, was
No time like then when the world was clean
We would speak to Gods like to grocers
You would sell us the magic fruit we ate

O but no returning to that knowledge
Of careless nurturing − instead we rail hard
Against this game we play for keeps, O Loss!
A hundred devices show us that we’re wrong
A million drops of water feed us before we’re gone
And we won’t ever thank the sky for that

I get into a car with you and we drive
Wind the windows down, turn the music up
Comment on change and colour, follow the clouds
Eventually tiring of the simple path
We look for a long road without the usual fences
Your hair touches my face, I imagine being without you.

© 2010-2014 Rob Schackne

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