Stuart Bartow

Calling the Muse

I’m superstitious about calling the muse,
don’t want her to get the wrong
idea. Who needs to make
a poem every day
when one has real work to do,
shoveling snow, washing dishes, drinking?
And doesn’t she
have other things to do, like
tending to her other loves, that
mountain in Greece, the wind
at 4:00 am, the Milky Way? And
making visitation to those lost souls
who need to write something
about love, or despair, or loneliness,
or simply doting on those
who garble lines and think
they’re clever. I don’t want her
to know I want her, need
her close. After all, if I call
too often, she may tire of me, even
though I’ve memorized
her number: (099) 999-9999.


All the night’s fleeting drama once we wake
crumbles into a vortex we can’t remake

as if we were created never to look back.
To resurrect Eurydice, such

hard work, poetry readings to the dead,
harp recitals in vacant catacombs,

hexameters for shades, Sapphic stanzas
rehearsed to shadows, and soothing tones

for junkyard dogs. Eventually he reached
the undiscovered country

that’s on no map, that sends magnetic fields
that pull us back and forth like geese.

He found the stone couple in their inverted
penthouse, charmed them enough to return

his bride, though it was plain to see,
even in through all the murk,

They would never surface alive. No one can
not glance back. They knew no living mortal

could bring so much quickness through their portal.
He tried, got to see her outstretched arms

evaporate, what we see when morning light
obliterates the stars. It happens every day.


The blackboard mapped with equations,
seen from an odd angle,
looks like the Homeridae’s code,
the saga of an ancient journey
that twists into a map:
Here are giants who eat men; here are islands
of beautiful women, but don’t go there;
here is the home of the winds; here the wormhole
leading to the land of the dead.
Not words, but symbols. They describe a vastness,
an infinity
imaginable to no one, archipelagoes
of planets, stars, nebulae, the windy way
back home for which only one route opens.

About the Author

Stuart Bartow teaches lives in Salem, New York where he chairs the Battenkill Conservancy. When he is not fishing, drinking, hiking, gardening, or trying to repair his house, he teaches writing and literature at SUNY Adirondack. His most recent book of poems, Green Midnight, is forthcoming from Dos Madres Press.

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