That Muse-Guy

There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer station.  He lives in the ground.  He’s a basement guy.  You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in.  You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you.  Do you think this is fair?  I think it’s fair.  He may not be much to look at, that muse-guy, and he may not be much of a conversationalist (what I get out of mine is mostly surly grunts, unless he’s on duty), but he’s got the inspiration.  It’s right that you should do all the work and burn all the midnight oil, because the guy with the cigar and the little wings has got a bag of magic.  There’s stuff in there that can change your life.


~ Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft


Ensio Ilmonen

In the Library

It’s fall, so, as usual, I’m writing a paper and spending more time in CGU’s library than I normally do.  Naturally, then, I found this poem particularly apropos this week…


The library always smells like this:

an ancient stew of vinegar and wood.

It’s autumn again,

and I can do anything.


~ Dorothea Grossman


“Library” by unknown artist, 1850s


Autumn Song

Know’st thou not at the fall of the leaf

How the heart feels a languid grief

     Laid on it for a covering,

     And how sleep seems a goodly thing

In Autumn at the fall of the leaf?


And how the swift beat of the brain

Falters because it is in vain,

     In Autumn at the fall of the leaf

     Knowest thou not? and how the chief

Of joys seems – not to suffer pain?


Know’st thou not at the fall of the leaf

How the soul feels like a dried sheaf

     Bound up at length for harvesting,

     And how death seems a comely thing

In Autumn at the fall of the leaf?


                        ~ Dante Gabriel Rossetti


“Falling Leaves” by Philip de Laszlo, 1895

To Solitude

I am weary of the working,

   Weary of the long day’s heat;

To thy comfortable bosom,

   Wilt thou take me, spirit sweet?


Weary of the long, blind struggle

   For a pathway bright and high, –

Weary of the dimly dying

   Hopes that never quite all die.


Weary searching a bad cipher

   For a good that must be meant;

Discontent with being weary, –

   Weary with my discontent.


I am weary of the trusting

   Where my trusts but torments prove;

Wilt thou keep faith with me?  wilt thou

   Be my true and tender love?


I am weary drifting, driving

   Like a helmless bark at sea;

Kindly, comfortable spirit,

   Wilt thou give thyself to me?


Give thy birds to sing me sonnets?

   Give thy winds my cheeks to kiss?

And thy mossy rocks to stand for

   The memorials of our bliss?


I in reverence will hold thee,

   Never vexed with jealous ills,

Though thy wild and wimpling waters

   Wind about a thousand hills.


~ Alice Cary


“Woman by the Water” by Béla Iványi-Grünwald, 1897

Dawn comes later and later now,

and I, who only a month ago

could sit with coffee every morning

watching the light walk down the hill

to the edge of the pond and place

a doe there, shyly drinking,


then see the light step out upon

the water, sowing reflections

to either side – a garden

of trees that grew as if by magic –

now see no more than my face,

mirrored by darkness, pale and odd,


startled by time.  While I slept,

night in its thick winter jacket

bridled the doe with a twist

of wet leaves and led her away,

then brought its black horse with harness

that creaked like a cricket, and turned


the water garden under.  I woke,

and at the waiting window found

the curtains open to my open face;

beyond me, darkness.  And I,

who only wished to keep looking out,

must now keep looking in.


                    ~ Ted Kooser


Photo by mattbuck


The breezes taste

Of apple peel.

The air is full

Of smells to feel –

Ripe fruit, old footballs,

Burning brush,

New books, erasers,

Chalk, and such.

The bee, his hive,

Well-honeyed hum,

And Mother cuts


Like plates washed clean

With suds, the days

Are polished with

A morning haze.


~ John Updike


“Chrysanthemums” by Daniel Ridgway Knight, circa 1898

Fall Equinox

I know it’s midnight when the little owls

Commence their muted woodwinds in the pines;

It is September.  Pegasus inclines

His great square high where late the heavenly fowls,

The Swan and Eagle, flew the galactine.

I know it’s midnight of the equinox

And dark and light are even – and the flocks

Will feel the sun stand southward on the Line.

The owls’ soft conversation soon is done,

And I am listening to the heavy dark;

In me the slow withdrawal of the sun

Crossing athwart the night has left its mark

That no September’s end shall need henceforth –

I turn with the equator to the north.


                                        ~ Orrick Johns


“Two Owls” by Thomas Moran, 1917

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