“Thalia Revisited” (Poem, 04/14/2014) Doc. #025

The Text:

Thalia Revisited

Written April 14, 2014

I. Muse of Thought

I think I’d like to see you wearing white
all decked out in Austin and Ovid
ringlets of Plato festooning your hair
quotes from Hamlet dangling from your wrists.

I could see such a beauty moving down the aisles
of Parliament, quoting Thoreau and Keynes.

I can see it.
You in the French Riviera—1802, beautiful and mysterious
and overwrought, a queen of the age, falling gracefully,
a flapping and fruffling of fabric, tracing your descent,
plunging into the sea, taking on water in the fabric,
so beautiful and mysterious and overwrought with water.

Muse of Thought, I can see you.

II. Muse of Passion

I think I’d like to see you wearing nothing
untethered by the trappings of your species
hairy, naked, wild, free
unbound by the draperies of Etiquette Manuals and Capital.

I could see such a beauty moving through the brush
of ancient deer-runs in virgin forests.

I can see it.
You in the American wilderness—5,000 B.C., hunched over
by a stream, drinking in water til your need is quenched.
Is there a lover nearby, naked and asleep?
Are you pregnant with life? How could you not be?
So beautiful and mysterious and overwrought with water.

Muse of Passion, I see you.

III. Muse of Longing

I think I’d like to see you wearing black
veiled in the costumery of mourning
dying endlessly with each rattling breath
the void of oblivion in your wake.

I could see such a beauty moving over the earth,
a ghost too haunted to be unsummoned.

I can see it.
You in London—1949, a young widow, a former mother,
head down on the now-too-vast kitchen table.
You drown in tears daily, and would gladly welcome a trolley-car
into your body, but could never make that fatal leap.
For who would mourn them, then? Who would keep loving them,
keep holding their memories to the earth? So you remain,
so beautiful and mysterious and overwrought with water.

Muse of Longing, I see you.

IV. Muse of Spirit

I think I’d like to see you wearing purple
draped in the holy garments of your kind
arms raised, muscles trembling, laying prostrate
in worship, overcome with magic.

I could see such a beauty moving through the air,
elevated, carried on the backs of the faithful.

I can see it.
You in ancient Egypt—1,200 B.C.—a high priestess,
daughter of the Sun, a goddess of water and fertility.
You anoint the heads of believers with an acacia bough,
and cast your blessings on everything you see. Each spring,
you stand in the river bed, so beautiful and mysterious and
overwrought with water. You call the river down.
At night you take three servants to your chambers and are exalted.

Muse of Spirit, I see you.

V. Muse of Being and Time

I think I’d like to see you again.
Wearing a tank top or a wedding dress, stilettos or sandals,
pumps or pajamas, I don’t care, wear the fucking drapes—
come over in a cardboard box, just come.

I have seen your beauty and it has moved me
to you, Helen, Cleopatra, Milissa D’Arc.

I can see it.
You and me—the French Riviera—2025—sipping
champagne by the sea and quietly mocking the French.
You and me—the American Wilderness—2025—making
love on the ground with rain all around us.
You and me—London—2025—dancing
in an elegant ballroom, spinning, spinning, spinning.
You and me—Egypt—2025—you are exalted.

Muse of Being and Time, I see you, saw you, will see you again,
let me keep seeing you, always.

Critique:

The first word that comes to mind when I read “Thalia Revisited” is pretentious. It starts with the title and continues unabashedly in the first two stanzas. I wasn’t sure the namedropping would ever end. Thankfully, it does.

“Thalia Revisited” is a love poem, but it is a very particular kind of love poem, imagining the subject in a variety of roles throughout time. Each of these incarnations is beautiful to the speaker, though they have little in common outside of their connection to water.

Sight is another constant thread in the poem. The first line of almost every stanza eludes to sight. The poem concludes, “I see you, saw you, will see you again,/ let me keep seeing you, always.” Given the scope of time addressed in the poem, the “always” seems to encompass all of time.

The pretension dissipates as the poem goes on, and there are some simple yet powerful phrases in the poem, such as, “You call the river down.” It’s moments like this that really stand out.

The poem follows a consistent structure and feels complete. And while it is clearly pretentious, I liked the Heidegger reference at the end. It certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s not unreadable. Grade: B+

Utterly unreadable. 

Just kidding.  Listen, my self esteem is probably the best it has ever been in my life and it’s still a flaming train wreck, so I am maybe just a tiny bit unreasonably partial to the poem in which the great love of my life repeatedly calls me Muse and depicts me as various archetypes that are completely unlike me but nevertheless flattering.

The time in which this was gifted to me was not the worst time in my life but it was most definitely not a high point.  I was living in the basement of the lovely lady who would eventually become my sister in law, but at the time I was just the girlfriend.  Heck, this was only a few months after someone had quite seriously wondered to my face if, when Sean moved, I would move with him.  Girlfriend status is vague and I had the fairly constant impression that people around us considered me to be a hanger on and a burden to Sean.  On top of that, I had very little luck in finding any job at all while Sean was out every day building his rep as a hot, up and coming young education professional.

In desperation, I turned to a freelance writing website.  At its most profitable, my freelance “career” netted me maybe sixty buck a week, but I amassed a huge, eclectic portfolio in a matter of months.  The best of those writing samples got me a job as a local news editor in the area  where Sean got his teaching gig. 

Is there a lesson here about the possibility for personal growth in bad times?  Nah.

Though the author calls himself out for pretension, I know from arguments experience that this is something of a habitual diss and may not be coming from a place of pure, rational criticism.  I found the progression of language in the poem to be compelling.  The speaker starts at a distance, using dead poets as chaperones at best and probably more like barriers, but by the final stanza the language is comfortable, even flippant, “…I don’t care, wear the fucking drapes…”  In that way, it echoes a relationship becoming more intimate.

I want to give it an A, but conscience demands I grade on a curve to correct for the fluffing of my ego.  B+

Reflection

This poem was not intended for public consumption. (Oh, good) I wrote it for Mackey for the three year anniversary of our first “date,” commonly referred to as peanut butter and jelly day (full story another time).  Dear readers, cast your eyes upon the quotation marks around reference to our first date and know that it must be true love or surely by now I would have contrived his death.

These were happy times for me. Mackey and I were living in my sister’s basement in Virginia. I was working as a substitute teacher and looking for a full-time teaching position. The future looked bright and I was deeply in love.

What strikes me most about this poem is the second-to-last stanza, and the year 2025. When I wrote this poem, I was full of hope for the future, and I wanted to take Mackey to Paris by 2025. At the time, it seemed like an achievable goal.

It’s now four years later and I’m less hopeful. (Goodness knows nothing can be accomplished in a mere seven years) I’ve been diagnosed with a serious mental illness, I’ve lost faith in my ability to teach, I have no idea what career to pursue next, and I’m delivering pizzas at the same restaurant I worked at when I was getting my teaching license. In four years, all I’ve managed to accomplish is to increase my debt. Mackey will undoubtedly point to small victories in those four years, especially since it was in those four years that we got married (Ah, yes, such a tiny thing), but I really want to take her to Paris, and that’s going to take money, more money than I’m making delivering pizzas. Bitch, maybe I’ll take your ass to Paris. 

I’m jealous of the guy that wrote this poem. I envy his attitude and outlook. I wish I were half as hopeful as my former self. The thing is, I do think things will get better, I’m just not sure how. I used to have plans. Now I just have vague hopes. Maybe I can nurse them into aspirations.

Anyway, I hope you liked something here, and if you did, please click on one of the “Share” buttons below!

Thanks for reading!

~Sean

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