the muse apprentice guild
--expanding the canon into the 21st century




THREE WORKS
BY STEPHEN MEAD

WIDOW UNDETECTED

Moving was the best thing.
There was no one who knew,
had the sympathy sticky as old tapioca.
For a long while I wore the ring, not out of duty,
or habit, more because it felt right, identified the
knuckle, & I meant to go on keeping busy, I mean to
go...
Wife was never exactly how I thought of myself
anyway.
The word was no problem, the same with belonging,
lucky
freedom in the fact, a pact of accessible united
but untied lives.
I never wanted to look tragic, my pride like fresh
dish water, purely added to, for work was essential
& kept the missing private. Realms underneath I
sensed
it welling to trap, & sometimes I gave in, a hot
flood
when least expected, say while paying a bill, & how
strange, that crazed raging, that long howl
after facing each night that wide gravel bed...
I never got accustomed, only numb now 'n then,
& that was more dangerous than moving, though so
many
said how brave (or foolish)
Foolish! Brave! Try sheer terror & instinct:
leaping a gulf & looking down the whole time for my
body
at the bottom 'til a quiet voice whispered:
"courage".
Thus a collision passes through me to leave me
standing
with its knowledge.
This is the change of keeping, of letting go
both my husband, my truth

================

BATTLEGROUND

The poisons my body produces I combat with one
I hope are stronger. Does that make any sense----
Pesticides for pesticides, this garden, overgrown,
giving out cobalt weeds?
It?s a civilized front here, the marginal expected
terror
quietly distributing rancor amid the zone of sand
bag-like
lumps. I touch them

attempting to picture nasturtiums bursting, all
sparkling
fire cracker colors altering every atom in a
pageant.
It isn?t that hard. I have a good imagination
and can often shut out the interior, that blind
person?s
bad dream of rearranged furnishings. You see, I know
the activity of my flesh, that magma flows and there
are
miniature detonations, that evolution only comes
from
a thrust
of loss towards gain.

There are endless variations, possibilities,
odds-----
the inner sanctum of a minefield, the maze where
some
minotaur lurks to be overwon and blown into smoke
like Rumplestiltskin. Go away pesky dwarf man.
You?ve collected enough of my hair. I can spin
gold without you, knowing your name now and that
I am healer, mother to myself and this child within.
I have brought her forth, kept her all along.

Stomp your feet. Throw a tantrum. Go ahead.
Even as I lie on this bed you are no match for her
fire,
this storm that I breathe.

================

IN HIDING

Is the war still going?
From this cave I hear much
but not enough. One gets
greedy for company, longs
to escape thoughts which become
claws scratching scratching
for hours at a time.
Well,
there's the radio, these headphones,
and those books that I snuck. That's good,
most of it, when I can pan out the propaganda
about how loathsome is a certain species,
switch on Delius, read Henry James.
Often,
I'm all the characters and then can pretend
that this too is another part, a fine job,
sold out for years. In the evening, afterwards,
we have a banquet: wine not yet vinegar, smuggled
ham,
big pearly onions. I confess, it's a pleasure, your
voice, the Adriatic, swooshing off this Sahara.
Sometimes
I rewind it, your presence's reeling tape,
set up a candle by makeshift stage curtains
and come through fishnet donned, a gold cigarette
holder, Marlene Dietrich in the raw.
Do you laugh still when I write you of this?
It must be weeks since the pigeon swooped through
bringing your last note. That was the day these
wall cracks emitted a bit of sun. I stared hard,
closed my eyes, and they seemed to be orbs, all
doors beyond keyholes. Darling, what's wrong?
I'm still
listening, aren't I? And you? It's just that 'til
I read you and know I am a surrealist going blind.

================

STAY AWAKE

I keep thinking. It can't be much longer.
He turned on the gas exactly six minutes ago.
I can see the clock. Must focus. He's staring at me.
I manage a smirk. It's not that difficult, really,
this
waiting him out. After all, considering how he came
in here,
I'm amazed to be alive. I should have looked through
the peephole, asked, "Who is it?", all of those
things.
Oh well, when I saw his face, my intuition's pretty
keen.
I knew automatically.
"Look, you want some soda?" I asked. "The truth is I
don't
have much cash." Oh yea, cool as a cucumber. The
first
thing I noticed upon coming 'round was the shade of
his eyes,
how they bore down upon me. Nice of him not to have
blown my head off.
I never asked why. He was desperate. Any fool could
see.
Loneliness and fear does that. I went and heated some
broth.
Later we listened to a few details about him streaming
from the transistor.
"They got it all wrong, man. I didn't use gelignite."
I shrugged and switched the station. "You like Bach?"
I thought he'd break my arm, but was just testing.
"God," he laughed. "What is it with you? You ain't
got no
car. You ain't got no computer. You hear I blew up
Mr.
Big Wig's caddie, yet don't even seem interested."
"I'm kind of a dunce." I faltered, trying to remember
if the newsman said whether anyone died.
"See this." He went on, flashing that gun again.
"Wanna
know if I used it?" I poured more soda and tried to
keep
my voice even. "Not particularly."
I held my breath, figuring violence would come then.
Only, "You're no dunce," he whispered, and went to the
stove.
These last three hours he's turned it on and shut it
off twice.
I've noticed this third time he's leaving it be.
I wish I were Sheherezade and could entertain him with
tales.