I retired from the SUNY Buffalo English Department in 2004. Have published a dozen or so collections of poems. Such my addiction to the sport of squash racquets my headstone is to read: "ONE MORE GAME?" See more of my poems HERE.
Note: Free Spirit to the poet’s peevish Letter, Heavenly Muse can’t be bothered to quote correctly. In one instance, however, she appears to misquote deliberately Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “The roll, the rise, the carol, the creation.” (“To R. B.”)
Et le regard qu'elle me jeta
me fit baisser les yeux de honte
Late, as usual.
And staging her entrance
--the flung-off mac flying into
a little storm of its own making;
wellies kicked to a corner,
as if reproached for the rain;
the flowered brolly dropped, upended,
weeping on the welcome mat.
soaked right to the bone!"
Not that she couldn't do
without drama, but so intent
her sense of self
theater happened around her.
Things snapped to attention,
aware all at once they, too, were there,
and eager to answer her vehemence.
And I no less, no less so.
Subdivided, firelit, a crowd
of raindrops was the fine glitter
in the dark auburn of her hair.
"You're a little late, you know,"
I called out toward where she'd gone off,
sweeping the vividness after her.
"Sarcasm is beneath me--it's rude.
Make certain it's beneath you, too.
I'm very late, thank you
--as I very well know."
My john door at its most rumblingly prim.
And here she was in the room again,
refurbished, radiant, and ticked.
"Please to repeat what you said."
"I said, 'You've kept me waiting
--miserably, if you must know.'"
"Poor man! I pity you--or would,
if you left me the tiniest spot
beside your tragic cenotaph.
Forgotten, have you, I knew you when?
If not for me you'd still be bumbling away,
or back to being mutely unglorious
down on the farm I plucked you from."
"You need me, too...."
"Oh, there are others...as you know
--who'd bite their tongues off to serve my needs.
Therefore, do not, I repeat it, don't,
lecture me about my obligations
--especially when you are unable
even to begin to imagine what
it's like to be a muse in a man's world!"
"A deal, then. I'll stop lecturing,
if you agree to end your complaining."
"Stop complaining? Our complaints are ceaseless
because we swim in oceans of maleness
--every instant refreshes our pain
with some new blunt, blundering obtuseness!"
"Uh-oh, here we go again.
Funny how always you work things
around to where you can't be wrong
--down here in good old gender quicksand:
you waving from shore and me drowning in
original gender sin."
"Oh, pooh, your jealousy's deeper than gender.
Never mind that my cabbie got lost;
never mind you live in the middle of nowhere;
never mind that every bell and mailbox
in this foul tenement says ANON.
You're angry that I've just stepped off
the Metroliner from Washington.
You want to be the only poet I inspire."
"Let's not argue, please, not tonight.
I'm blocked, I'm blocked bad.
My mind's a bitter blank.
My gift is lodged with me useless.
You've got to help me--and, besides,
you know that, feminist muse or not,
I find you--the quicksilver logic of
your moods--fascinating, inspiring."
"You think I'm 'cute,' don't you,
when I throw myself around like this?
And, really, I'm in agony,
and dramatizing my exasperation
to make a little space for myself
inside the too muchness of everything,
and that includes your (collective) exigence.
And always so impatient
--as if Time were your enemy."
"I'm sorry. I didn't realize."
“'Realizing' isn't your thing, is it?
Honestly, do you ever think of me
from one little yen of yours to the next?
And then it's Woos, Spews, and Thank-you-Muse!
Do you even know my first name?"
"That's terribly funny.
And it isn't Irving, either.
You male poets are all alike.
Because women have no place in your minds,
you've no idea how much space a man
--any silly little man--takes up in ours."
"No need to get personal."
"Or need for you to pout.
You've done nothing else since I arrived
--at great expense and peril to myself,
and on a dark and stormy night.
Look, I've even brought you this:
a bottle of the bubbly Hippocream!"
"Whatever. And not that you noticed.
Poets are such a self-absorbed breed
--and so unconscionably immodest,
or would be, if you weren't such liars."
"I beg your pardon. I write the Truth!"
"Of course you do, poor dear.
And very solemnly, too.
If you managed a smile now and then,
you'd be a lot less scary
--or would that burden too much
your precious air and aura?
'So much depends upon...'
your high opinion of yourselves.
God, if plumbers carried on the way
that poets do, cold water would run
from all the taps of Hot.
Toilets would be gargling in our sinks."
"That's not fair...you're in this too, you know."
"Oh, lighten up; try charm for a change.
Or I may just go ahead and leave you here
'to wade the wide streets of the broken wave.'"
"That's 'white streets'--you're misquoting me!"
"No, I'm misquoting me.
Or are you forgetting that, too?"
"If only you knew..."
"Knew what? Is there something I don't know?"
She was looking around now for a mirror.
"...that maybe you make sense to yourself,
but what I hear's a garbled hash of sound,
some static of the spheres it takes me years
and years of labor to get into tune."
"That? That's wax in your ears, child.
You could be what's-his-name; instead,
choose to be his very common crewman
complaining that the Siren squeaks.
The problem's not me but your instrument.
Which is why I always tell my poets,
'Fingernails and ears, if nothing else.'"
"You're getting personal again."
"Am I repeating myself?
Very well, I repeat myself."
"I guess I might as well go be a plumber."
"Oh, come here, you poor man.
Sometimes I do feel sorry
for all I put you through.
I'll make it up to you this minute.
You may be a man, but you're not
completely useless. And tonight,
tonight you inspire me strangely.
Tonight I have immortal longings...
Quick now, sit down, write just as I tell you.
'Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe...'"
"Whoa! You gave that one to Johnny Milton
three hundred fifty years ago!”
"Picky, critical--that's you all over.
You might be a little encouraging.
I suppose we're too much alike.
Women and warriors and poets
all have a dainty nature,
living or dying by our morale.
I ought to go and find myself
a nice, steady fiction writer
--as, blessèd be her memory,
poor Mother always told me to.
But I, I had to follow my heart.
And now look at me, stuck with you
who want the roll, the rise, the carol,
the dictation--without your submission.
This is eavesdropping, this is stealing,
unless, until, you give yourself to me...."
"Oh, all right. 'Sing, Heavenly Muse!'"
©2016 Irving Feldman
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