Calliope Grieves

August 16, 2009


The crowd looks up. It seems so rude. Spotlights

Search through the audience. He looks okay,

This ‘professor’, as he comes to the mike.

The tux looks new. Think James Mason here, not

Brando. Oleaginous, perhaps, but not

The first ‘overly sophisticated’

Curriculum Vitae to dance for us.

A-one, a-two, a-one, two three—

Got that? Go…


I’m running. Like the god is darkness and

The lights go out. A kind of stunned silence,

As one and all whisper: that’s it? That end,

It sounded like poetry. But way too short

And minimalist, minimalist in

Extremis, we all think. In the worst way:

‘Borges, Pessoa, Kierkegaard,’ he’d said.

‘All of them giants and all of them dead.’

And then the lights went out. And running feet.


Of course, his name is not ‘Cadaver’. No,

He shakes his head. Nor is it ‘Caveat’.

And not ‘Caviar’ either. Such silliness.

More than once, he’s been a ‘Catastrophe’,

‘Contingency’, a ‘Caliphate’, and a

‘Calliope’.   He smiles. A worthy name

For poetry, Calliope.  It has

Distinct pronunciations for both its meanings,

The steam and sadness, the muse and music.

Calliope and calliope. It’s good.


The crowd gathers. Two women squeeze past us

To get to the bar. Charles, one says. This is

A surprise.  Introductions to follow…but

That band…talk about a calliope…

I’m sorry, I can’t hear a thing…

Get it?

We pause, protest, for we all live a life

Committed to music that poetry achieves.

Serious dudes, listening to the beat

The foster-child of silence and slow time

Can produce and surely poetry has

A special subject matter, something it

Does best? Calliope grieves. So we stand,

Angry now, a dangerous mob clothed in

That very grief; a confusion, perhaps,

Between accounting for the mind, and our

Problematic use of it, but it’s

A righteous confusion assembled by

The mind, bereft of the pain in the mind.

And so… Wrong? I don’t think so.

Let the hunting begin.


Writes:  Charles Chalmers Codicil, the Third.

In Charge of Additions, if possible.

Writes: Calliope Grieves. Get It? A strange

Succession. For. My breath is my breath.

Iambic  pentameter is death, breath,

A soldier of the skin. The other side of silence.

One hand clapping. A terrible beauty…

He writes: it is a mistake to accept

What Shakespeare called the real and not accept

The skeptical problematic. Walk in…


The classroom has filled with students. We wait.

The board is pretty full. He flips to the

Clean side, our silent professor, and writes:

A rule: Only one thing is ever true.

Thus: The shouting, the circle, the circus, the

Long empty seasons, the cycle of the

Seasons, shut down, circulating the sound—

Astounding at last, this thought, thief, self, ping,

And finally pause…and finally conclusion.

But true?


These words do not name. Our passage here

Leaves fractured glass, the identity thief,

And leaves a prism of light—but pooled

On the ground and useless—and Calliope’s grief

Remains for Orpheus, torn at the stalk

For singing to a dark horizon, her son.

And in this, the very grief of substance,

Somehow we form a hypothesis of rest.

Of rest, not of understanding—not of

The night, the stars, not of the folds of earth

We form for home, for these words do not name….

But rest.  Somehow we rest, the least and last

Of Calliope’s grief. Somehow we do get it.


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