Jan. 26, 2004

The Muse and I Are Alone

by Robert Long

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Poem: "The Muse and I Are Alone," and "The Muse Lends a Hand," by Robert Long, from Blue (Canio's Editions).

The Muse and I Are Alone

On the usual corner, we're
Up and out earlier than usual.
No winos around: too cold. The Muse
Wears white pants and the usual heavy metal
Jacket. He's pouty, half-asleep,
Turns toward me, his back
To the screaming crosstown wind.
I'm leaning against a video store
Steel grate. Hollywood light bulbs
Race around the window perimeter.
If you looked from across the avenue
You"d see us: a guy with a briefcase
Full of paper and a kid
With a backpack stuffed with books,
Framed by blinking lights,
Like forgotten celebrities.

The Muse Lends a Hand

The wind picks up; my hat blows off my head.
I'm trying to light a cigarette.
The hat hits the Muse in the knees, drops
To the sidewalk. Facing me,
He wears a baseball cap backwards, and looks stern
This morning. He bends, picks up the hat,
Hands it to me. "Thank you," I say.
He says nothing but watches
As I replace the hat on my head.
He turns, searches the avenue for evidence
Of our bus. I feel undignified.
The Muse is always composed;
His role is to trigger creative impulses
In others. He adjusts his bookback,
Steps to the curb, stares
Into the relentless gray dream
Of 7:13 a.m. Philadelphia.
The Muse looks tired of living.
A woman in a dirty raincoat asks me
If the K bus has passed. "No," I say.

Literary and Historical Notes:

Today is Australia Day.

It's the birthday of children's book author Mary Mapes Dodge, born Mary Elizabeth Mapes in New York City (1831). In 1851, she married the lawyer William Dodge, who had lent her father money to experiment with chemical fertilizers. The marriage lasted seven years, until William left one day and never returned. He had drowned, possibly by suicide, having suffered financial difficulties brought about by his loans to his father-in-law. In her grief, Dodge moved with her sons to her father's estate, and she set up a study for herself in the attic of an old building nearby. In 1865 she published a novel called Hans Brinker; or, The Silver Skates, and it became a bestseller. She set the book in Holland, even though she'd never been to the country.

It's the birthday of playwright Christopher Hampton, born on Fayal Island in the Azores (1946). Hampton wrote many plays and screenplays, including a screen adaptation of the French novel Dangerous Liaisons, about two people who can't admit they love each other, and spend their energies trying to destroy the loves of others. It won an Academy Award in 1988. Hampton said, "No human being who devotes his life and energy to the manufacture of fantasies can be anything but fundamentally inadequate."

It's the birthday of cartoonist, playwright and novelist Jules Feiffer, born in the Bronx (1929). His books include Sick Sick Sick (1958) and Marriage Is an Invasion of Privacy (1984).

It's the birthday of singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams, born in Lake Charles, Louisiana (1953). She had a nomadic childhood, living everywhere from Atlanta to Mexico City, to Santiago, Chile. By the time she was twelve, she was playing and singing Bob Dylan songs, and she soon delved further back into the history of blues, folk, and country music. Early in her career, she fell in love with a charismatic poet, only to find out he was also dating at least two other women at the same time. The women got together to confront him, and he later shot himself. Williams was devastated by the loss, and wrote about it in her song 'sweet Old World." Her most recent album is World Without Tears (2003).

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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