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Roberta Chester 



(For John Keats)

††††††††† ††††††††† 1.

When a great poet dies young

the songs within him barely sung,

the muse wanders far and wide

to find another to sit beside,

to haunt his dreams and to adore

while reams of paper fill the floor.

For he invents images from a place

transcending time and space

where truth and beauty interface.

inseparable when you glance.

(seemingly effortless and happenstance)

as the dancer and the dance.

When he catches his death of cold.

she cannot by lesser poets be consoled.

She is driven to neither stop nor rest

till she finds another equally blessed.

Compelled to listen while would-be poets toil

with leaden lines they burn the midnight oil.

For she is finely tuned to the song of words at play,

the wizardry of metaphor and imagery.

She reserves her favors for that singular magician

who transforms the everyday with his rendition,

whose sleight of hand marries skill and intuition

She is allowed just a bit of interference

when he is desperate for the phrase

that will make all the difference,

reconciling us to the nobility of our human condition.

For only he is gifted to remove the mud and grime,

till he overwhelms us with the miracle

that each of us began as a microscopic speck of slime.

But like the princess and the pea

whose delicate skin revealed the slightest injury,

she hears the imposters, waxing eloquent,

until line by empty line her patience is utterly spent

As if only she discerns a fraud, puffed with pride while the crowd applauds

like chalk against the board, she hears the discord and cacophony,

and shuts her eyes and holds her ears in agony..

Devastated by the loss that is hers and ours, her lament

is heard on high for she will not be satisfied

until another poet worth her while is heaven sent.

to reveal the Divine sparks of our humanity.

For nowhere is it easily found within the Book

and you will not find it even if day and night you look,

but in ancient times it was coded in a phrase ─

like all else to only be conveyed at the end of days.

But when Adam and Eve left the garden so bereft

all the angels heard the harsh decree and wept

Long and hard with tireless insistence

we were rewarded for their selfless persistence

that the muses were given us to compensate

for being driven from the garden and our fate

that death awaits and dust is all that we will ever be.

In every time and place when we pray in vain

for God to show His face, each art will have a muse,

and each soul with a transcendent spirit will be infused††

and thereby wewill have a taste of immortality.

When a great poet dies young,

that which keeps us whole threatens to come undone,

for we long to be suspended in disbelief

and depend on those consoling fictions for relief

to distract us from the certainty of that last good night,

With a flowery tale and imagined melodies sublime,

of an innocent revelry spared the ravages of time,

A lovely dancing girl, a lovesick boy, and the bliss,

of what will forever be an imagined kiss,

all drawn in bas-relief around a Grecian urn,

When a great poet dies young,

the songs within him barely sung,

those unfinished symphonies written on the wind

have not been forsaken, for they have been taken

by the muse beneath her wing until she finds

in her wanderings a poet to comfort us in yet another time of woe.

The measure of his days is not for us to know.

But look up to the sky where the brightest constellation

is the pantheon of poets in a configuration

of bright stars like pins that keep the sky from falling.

So glory, glory be all these poets

who struggled day and night faithful to their calling

with the muse beside them, her wings on fire

from the passion of their desire.

The rest of us are blessed and can rest easily

knowing there will always be one among us

who drinks the ambrosia of moonlight

and the nectar of the Milky Way

and who lives and dies for poetry..

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††† II.

These days when most everyone I know would be averse

to seek answers to the mysteries by way of verse,

when she is wise who savors and lingers

with the feeling of the page beneath her fingers.

For though we elders may dare protest the loss of pages

and risk the accusation that we prefer the middle ages,

we can rightly fear the printed page may disappear,

a distant memory by the end of the year,

relics like the book store, the book sale, and the library.

So be aware that the future is bleak, that it may just be weeks

before the books you have are merely decorations,

curious antiques, and fill for excavations.

Besides, with the kindle and the nook,

youíll have a library in your pocketbook.

But for those of us for whom texts and twitters,

perplex and confound and give us the jitters,

these days when all we know on earth

and all we need to know

is on a screen above a set of keys

that tells us where to go, and we can, in just a blink,

know everything extraneous and miscellaneous

plus the kitchen sink

Even how to live and what to do,

so everything we have is always absolutely new.

But I thank my lucky stars that last night I found a book

(and only because my internet access timed out,

and it didnít help to scream and shout)

or accept with grace that it was nothing much I lost to cyberspace)

old, dusty, and overlooked, and all night until the break of dawn

I forgot my aches and pains and that Iím overdrawn.

Carried into distant lands, I held fast to the wings of words

and soaredthrough the coral reefs of clouds

and watched the sun rise heralded by the song of birds.

All that night and into the morning I had such otherworldly visions,

travelling into those realms of gold, shards of sunlight

on an endless sea and tasted such sweets,

when just as he looked into Chapmanís Homer,

I looked into Keats.



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