Sing, Muse, in the dark and easygoing
For there are holes in my understanding
And love is never any easy fit
I have ever heard thy sisters’ voices
Ringing siren-sweetly in daily ears
And I have followed and done their bidding
Heeding exhortations with leaping heart
To fight and to love with all abandoned
To die readily and to die often.
I have swallowed fire, made the rashest vows
And all the ghostly daggers taken up.
But as of yet I have not died well,
My enemies yet many and vital
The day is long and the nights are sleepless
It was not thus before thy sisters’ song.
I lived and loved and longed and died enough
Not knowing I should have been feeling more
That there was precedent for emotion
And that I should have been disappointed
I did not know what disappointment was
Until they taught me dreams – until I read.
For lo! I have been made literate
And cannot find my way to Lethe
I lived in a better world for a time
And I cannot forget the scent of it
It lingers on my clothing, on my mind
And turns a grey world greyer in contrast.
A sunset never moves me as described
My day is never as full as story
And I can’t love my Baby like I should.
My God is silent, a distant father
As grey-eyed, wise Athena never was
My wars are small and civil, and, O Muse
It’s never dulce et decorum est
But always nine hells with three lost stellas.
Erato perished with the Virgin Queen
Calliope fell singing at the Somme
Clio, too, in the War to End all Wars
Euterpe was struck dumb by its sequel,
Terpsichore lay lame on her sister’s grave
Polyhymnia was starved at Dachau
Melpomene drained dry by the poets
Urania became a battlefield
Thalia froze to death in a cold war
Before the Helicon spat you forth and ceased.
So sing, youngest sister, the tenth and last
Born of holocaust and fear-mongering
Atom’s daughter, revolution’s scion
Handmaiden of the age after reason
Make speed to me on wings of irony
Bearing cynicism as shield and laurel
In arms long and white, smooth and marble-cold
With raised eyebrows and lips carved ne’er to laugh.
Bend low and sing a new excitation
That I might transcribe fresh truth, new knowledge
Where the pieces do not fit. (for the pie-
ces never fit)
A meter for ignorance and falsehood
A couplet for delib’rate deception,
Narrative gaps and holes in understanding
Disjoint and disjuncture be the scansion
And the last, best ending is none at all.
Sing me a fluorescent tale, illumine
But do not warm me, Muse I pray thee
For I have never been warm not reading
Bring light without shining, white without glow
Only a right reflection of my days
Or I swear I will never read again.
Let me lead not others to bitterness
As I myself have been embittered, and
O Muse of the last thirty years or so
Muse of fallen towers, sister slayer
Salter of fields, the bane of fantasy
Muse of fluorescence, never-forgetting.
Let us never forgive, much less forget
What was done to us [what she did to me]
While we were waiting there for catharsis
While we were waiting there for poetry.
Last daughter, alone, sing over the world
Gird me now with wit and pessimism
A broad, written shield, a spear stained with ink
Lock my cooling heart in theory’s breastplate
And hide my face beneath objective helm.
For there are lovely dragons in my path
And six thousand years to burn to the ground
And rebuild again, oh but true this time
For beneath my helmet are eyes to read
Between every line in every heart
Take up with trigger fingers weapon-pen
Let every disappointment be revenged.