Regaining the Muse

I wrote the original of this poem after spending almost two years writing novels (a terrible mistake, in retrospect, even though they were published). The original, called "Avoiding the Muse," was rather irregular in its metrics. In preparing the new edition of "Poems from Providence," I took a deep breath, and the Muse said, "Look, the least you could do here, if you can't give me a sonnet, is to re-do this in blank verse." I submitted, the poem got a little longer, and I think it more worthy of its subject now. A little rhymed couplet popped up in the middle, unplanned, as if in a nod to that mode. The poem as it stands, rude as it is, expresses my gratitude that the Muse did not abandon me.


Silent this voice for more than a year now —
homeward I come again with head bowed down,
weighted with other laurels and their debts,
back to poetry and its finer lyre.
Time and this book alone shall tell if I
am any wiser than I was before,
or if the Muse whose hardened gaze I dodged
shall reconcile herself once more to me,
come to the window I deck as of old
with that dim flame that She and no other
can see. Heartbeat pentameters return,
furrows I plow anew; bones, rock & root
I move away, to plant a newer crop:
trees that will rise to the bellies of clouds,
roots tapped in the strata of dinosaurs,
leaf sprouts that will themselves contain whole books.
From one thought, many lines; from but one dream,
a vision framed at the heart of epic;
from sap of imagination, the sword
of heroes and the gods who inspire them
to plant a Troy, a Rome, an Asgard bright,
as hope against the all-devouring night.
Shield-maiden of Bard, Skald and Poet,
Muse, take me back! Have I not given up
everything to make these lines? Look at me,
Muse: the fading wraith I am, you made me.


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