Readings in Contemporary Poetry

Carol Muske-Dukes


After his death, I kept this illusion before me:
that I would find the key to him, the answer,
in the words of a play that heĠd put to heart
years earlier.  I'd find the secret place in him,

retracing the lines he'd learned, following
tracks in snow.  I'd discover, scrawled hastily
in the margin of a script, a stage-note that
would clarify thought in a single gesture--

not only the playwright's frame-- but his,
the actor's, and his, the self.  Past thought's
proscenium: the slight tilt of Alceste's head or
his too-quick ironic bow; the long pause as Henry

Carr adjusts his straw boater, Salieri slumps at 
the keyboard.  The actor disappears. The spirit
re-appears, naked, brandishing its gold scimitar.
In love unrequited and tactical hate, the shouted

curse of an unhappy son, a vengeful duke, 
in that silent watchful dialogue-- spoken,
unspoken--heĠd show up in the ear, in
a tone of voice like woodsmoke, show up

as passion's lover (draining that cup,
head back-- for its green sting at the last!)
Look-- the same smile he flashed at me
from the shaving mirror is here, right here--

I remember this path opening in a deep
forest outside Athens, the moon shuddering
into place-- and no players as yet at hand.