Dennis Barone

Muse Me Thus

And everything has to start: blue water in the oceans, for example; or clouds above green fields and dust along the edges of that carpet; that too, and endless charts that correct error and a fragrance that perpetuates gospel hours. All of it. Ghostlike, we are the batteries that hammer our steel in the shadow of an abandoned factory. Jagged rocks make our walk tiresome until some kindly tractor pulls up sometime around late next century. My, my, what had the soothsayer said when nobody answered even after three rings of the telephone? On the chalkboard, a message – perhaps the words of a prophet? — silence followed: restless clouds circled above. These were signs that something might have happened there. Then we looked up a word in the dictionary, up in the thesaurus, a word very much like the speakers at a festival shout-out while those gathered hear nothing at all.

Copious Notes

Three pages. Now counting. A shopping list. A to do list. Too many for that. Think of the mat alongside the frame, the crosswalk, or something hung on the refrigerator. A full roll of paper towel, no printed design applied. Agnes Martin very early in the morning. Wallace Stevens in winter. A coffee-mug with no coffee; a tea-cup with no tea. Something sanitized before surgery. A thick book looked at from the side, someone’s autobiography. Fog – when the car lights hit it just so (now we’re moving). Robert Irwin alone in his room. Someone’s eyes closed, ready for yoga-practice or prayer. Morris’s empty loom. Carrara or “oh, moon,” etc. Fifty-year old appliances: still working. Lampshades or drum-skins. The dots of polka-dots. A lightbulb lit. A voice speaking and the listener not yet ready to hear it, to heed its beckoning call in the forest and then a meeting with the speaking tiger. Of necessity, following instructions precisely. The tiger growled but expressed kindness and humility. He listened to the tiger; observed the ripples of its stripes as it spoke. The tiger especially liked the tulip garden and wanted to walk there, all the bright colors of the blooms. Then the next day the tiger woke early: all across the morning sky stretched himself until the brightness of noon negated all trace of animal presence. The hours advanced despite the fact that someone had turned all clocks toward the wall, as if this might slow down or even stall for some moments the onward progression of hours. The moon came up, beckoning the return. Shadows now across the field, two scarecrows and the hum of distant tractors. One shadow aspires, seeks, wants, sees, and so speaks to the scarecrows. They appear not to be actively listening. They watch and wait for the mailman. Sometimes they count backwards: three-two-one. They are impatient; also, immovable. The scarecrows and the shadows lift their faces to the moonlight, take it all into their bodies. The branches of the leafless tree. The roof of the house next door. Part of a telephone pole. Part of a window. Breathing and cancellation. Clean-up. Put away. Check list. Tie shores. Millions of facts in the night of knowledge. We have a picture of such far away stillness, a bend in the light. At the edge of a stream, something recalled for a moment. Someone starts to speak but only stutters a syllable or two and then stops, looks down at the ground, ashamed. And then a melody: oboe concerto (Bellini). Barely heard but loud enough to lift up, to perk up, to listen, and to find that listening pleasant, worthwhile, and a reason to walk closer to the sound, in its direction which seems to be coming from the nearest town, a small ornamented lyceum built a century before, built when the composer lived, a building built in this small town for just this purpose, for music and its appreciation. One doesn’t often think of the oboe, but here, now, it offered many reasons for joy – each note another one. The horses lifted their heads. The sheep and the cows. The swan stayed quiet for once and ceased its honking. Bellini, the opera composer, had written a concerto. All around the fence creatures gathered to listen. When it stopped, the people clapped, the animals bent their heads down to the trough. The walker returned to the creek and recalled the sound, the notes until he could no longer do so. He thought of a kitchen decorated in white tile and black wood. He grew hungry and his stomach growled, but there was nothing to eat. The moon rose and he put his hands in the water.

Dennis Barone is the editor of Garnet Poems: An Anthology of Connecticut Poetry Since 1776 (Wesleyan University Press) and author of A Field Guide to the Rehearsal (BlazeVOX Books). He is the Poetry Editor of the Wallace Stevens Journal.
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About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis ( is the Editor-in-chief and founder of Posit ( and the author of ten books and chapbooks, including Zoom (winner of the Washington Prize), Heisenberg's Salon, This Visit, and State of the Union. Her poetry has appeared in anthologies such as Walkers in the City (Rain Taxi), They Said (Black Lawrence Press), and Resist Much, Obey Little (Dispatches/Spuyten Duyvil), as well as in journals such as Agni, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Conjunctions online, Diode, Interim, New American Writing, and VOLT.