Friday, February 17, 2006

Barbara Guest (1920-2006)

photo by Donna Dennis, 1970s

"The Return of the Muses"

So much goes away

Forms are now shades,
those solid weights, how empty they are,
mere boxes,
the whispering voice,
the ankle bone only an arch.

Peasants once sowed this valley
there isn't any wheat here or oats
there almost isn't a valley,
only a dent.

This morning was all concaveness,
the clouds drew back into themselves,
the clouds went so far away leaving it blue,
now we're quite convex
and the rain is emptying itself out on me

The rain that took weeks to return,
the rain that left us on Wednesday
after tears, after dark, after that sluicing
about in memory, fishing up

The rain is here now.

'It makes for change and a certain disagreeableness
this coming and going makes one nervous'

The farewells to buildings
and then to the hole in the ground

This hello on one's lips
to a new perspective
finished by the end of the week,
completed a fresh horizon line

The earth is old, no longer fragrant
those planets are promising,

Goodbye, hello.

Yet you who had vanished
you trailing your garments
who went away in that last March stanza
not liking the violins
or standing around waiting
your arms circling each other's waists
or the salt in your mouth
where the sea was whipping itself up in the corner
and foam falling like ash

You departed divine Muses
without warning

And I went on a diet
I stopped eating regularly,
I changed my ways several times

"strict discipline, continuous devotion,

were mine.

Here you are back again. Welcome.

Farewell, 'strict, continuous, receptive'--

There's that old shawl in the corner
looking like a wave

There's a ringing in my ears
as if a poem were beating on stone

The room fills now with feathers,
the birds you have released, Muses,

I want to stop whatever I am doing
and listen to their marvellous hello.

(from The Blue Stairs, Corinth Books 1968)

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