Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Tenth Muse?

I have always said for a poem to sustain my interest, it must either enlighten, haunt or unsettle me. The middle verb is the one I’ve been wondering about lately. What makes a poem haunt and linger in the nerves, skin cells and maybe even blood vessels? I think verse with a story that struggles and laments the loss of something or longs for something unattainable in a dream or memory. In short, it’s about the bittersweetness of life.

Pathos both in sound and meaning captures the essence of melancholy and reflective yearning that give the stanzas longevity. It’s more than a term. It’s a spirit, an inspirational force that makes poetry extract our raw feelings and cause our hearts to Ripen with empathy. To me, it becomes “her”, The Tenth Muse who gives breath and vibration to a poem’s body. She becomes the music as well as the messenger that brings us, the readers, back for many visits.

But what does she look like and where does she live? My imagination could give her the ancient attributes of the Roman poetess, Sappho or the wistful sense of malaise one may experience when smoking a chemical substance. But I think of her as a pensive woman walking the wintry shoreline when she is not in demand . Here, her spirit fades in after completing a work and waits to be summoned by another poet. Long, lean and intrinsically silent, she becomes the guardian of deep and indelible emotions. Her presence is in a perpetual state of wandering and needs to be evoked by the writer to achieve meaning and impact.


She is exorcised when sunlight
filters through the ribs
and a new voice arises
diffusing her shadow.

Slender song, she returns
as woman to Winter’s beach
and lingers as the sea lays forth
this sheer coat of silence.

Like the tide, she glides
in layers of estrangement.
Silk umbrella and manteau
offer the stem its black orchid.

Here, she flowers on a wet shore
waiting to be summoned
by another poet, hoping

to cast her heel marks
on the parchment’s sand,
and fill his stone cup
with feeling that stains the tongue.

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