In Where Do Poets Get Their Inspiration? Carol Muske-Dukes says, "I think lines of poetry come to you whenever they come. You could be waiting for the dentist and suddenly you'll get an image or a line and you write it down. I write on the backs of envelopes, parking tickets—whatever I have at hand because you cannot lasso the muse."


I try to make myself afraid,
the way you must have been afraid,
stepping out onto this stage—
but with a fear so pure, so

perfectly informed that you strode
out shouting. Here, where
the neon yellow arrows painted
on the floor shoot forward underfoot

in blackness—beneath the hanging
sequence of tinted skies—out toward
that mindless immortalizing light, now
dark. Now I think I feel the heat you

must have felt rising from the front rows.
A gaping fire door, a furnace:
your single body standing here
with no shadow, swinging on itself.

Had you been a fool, you might have thought
that they loved you. They never love you,
you said. They are hungry for the god
in his gold eclipse, the pure you on fire.

John and I move quickly, each with a handful
of ash, scattering. The sound of no sound falling
into the cracks in the boards, the footlights,
the first row. A small personal snow: a prince

of dust, a villain of dust. Each part you played
drifting up again, recomposing. I open my hand,
I let you go—back into the lines you learned,
back into the body and the body's beauty—

back into the standing ovation: bow after bow after bow.
—Carol Muske-Dukes

"Ovation" appears in Sparrow, written by Carol Muske-Dukes and published by Random House.

Read "Study of the Object" by Zbigniew Herbert


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