How It Works For Me

The Nine Muses of the Greek Mythology were deities that gave artists, philosophers and individuals the necessary inspiration for creation. They are the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne. They are known for the music of their song, which brings joy to any who hear it. There are nine Muses, each with her own specialty: Clio (History), Urania (Astronomy), Melpomene (Tragedy), Thalia (Comedy), Terpsichore (Dance), Calliope (Epic Poetry), Erato (Love Poetry), Polyhymnia (Songs to the Gods), Euterpe (Lyric Poetry).

With little sleep, a grumpy attitude, and not nearly enough coffee, I at least made it to the chair and keyboard, so give me some credit here. Seven a.m. on a Wednesday. Just another work day, even though odds are that everything I do today will end up in the bit bucket. The start time isn’t always this early. but it’s always by 10.

But that’s OK. What matters now is that I’m here. Waiting. I figure if I show up, sooner or later the mystery of the process will take over. She will show up. My muse.

I will work, even if work means staring at the screen until the coffee makes me so jittery that my eyes won’t focus and I have ants crawling through my veins. I’m here, Muse. Have pity on me. I’ve done my part.

Because when it’s working, if it works, it’s something unique. Things come from somewhere else, then. I am not the creative one here. I’m just taking dictation. The crappy stuff is all my fault, the decent-to-good stuff is out of my hands.

So, come on. Melpomene. Calliope. Erato. I’m waiting. Elizabeth Gilbert is here with me. Hope you don’t mind.

French Chocolates

If you have your health, you have everything
is something that’s said to cheer you up
when you come home early and find your lover
arched over a stranger in a scarlet thong.

Or it could be you lose your job at Happy Nails
because you can’t stop smudging the stars
on those ten teeny American flags.

I don’t begrudge you your extravagant vitality.
May it blossom like a cherry tree. May the petals
of your cardiovascular excellence
and the accordion polka of your lungs
sweeten the mornings of your loneliness.

But for the ill, for you with nerves that fire
like a rusted-out burner on an old barbecue,
with bones brittle as spun sugar,
with a migraine hammering like a blacksmith

in the flaming forge of your skull,
may you be spared from friends who say,
God doesn’t give you more than you can handle
and ask what gifts being sick has brought you.

May they just keep their mouths shut
and give you French chocolates and daffodils
and maybe a small, original Matisse,
say, Open Window, Collioure, so you can look out
at the boats floating on the dappled pink water.

“French Chocolates” by Ellen Bass from Like a Beggar. © Copper Canyon Press, 2014.


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