(Poetry) The Nine Muses, Daughters of Mnemosyne by Susan Hawthorne

01 Kalliope, Muse of Epic Poetry

I’m drawn to Kalliope who can sing for days

her verses flowing without end

one night I sat by her as she sang

her epic poems to the stars

she says they are not so long

not even a light year long

they are intricate their metre complex

and rhythmic so you can dance

 

as she sang it seemed that the stars came closer

the trees huddled around us and the whispers

of animals could be heard in the forest

before I knew it I could hear the rushing sound

of a stream just out of reach

I listened and watched the night through

woke to the sound of a trumpeting swan

the clatter of grasshopper wings

 

02 Polyhymnia, Muse of Song

I thought Polyhymnia would be a walk-over

a softie away with the fairies her head

in the clouds but this Muse is serious

she is sacred through and through

whether it be poetry hymns or dance

its her eloquence that lifts her and us

she is solid too in her farm boots

turning the soil following the ox-plough

digging weeding and harvesting

then come the celebrations of harvest

pantomimes for which you need

geometry to organise a stage

Polyhymnia is queen of silence

meditation more than a hobby

on Parnassus she listens to the

oracles of Pythia nothing is lost

it was her son Orpheus who picked up

the lyre and revived the dead

 

03 Melpomene, Muse of Tragedy

 

in your boots you stomp around the stage

with your knife your club and that hideous mask

life is tragic enough without making it ugly too

your sting is like that of the bee whose honey

is sweet but the bite can kill that’s how the tragic

arts are we are all engrossed in the story

meanwhile our lover has died of heartbreak

or lost dreams or serial disappointments

we all think we are immune to tragedy in our lives

until it strikes without warning like lightning flash

there is no way back we are all changed

by those moments when we had hoped for joy

Melpomene sing your dirges for me so that

I might haul myself up unwrap the cloths

split the hard chrysalis emerge transformed

 

04 Ourania, Muse of Astronomy

Ourania is an enigma

she is invisible in her starry robe

against the darkening sky

but each clear night we stand

watching her movements

darkness is in her she is

the dark matter that fills

the universe the dark energy

that sparks everything

in the day she has a golden

orb around her as she rides

the sky in a boat laden

with songs carries a globe

constantly spinning

Ourania full of magic

is the first astronomer

Uranian once considered

a tragic pronouncement

who knows what goes on

in that heavenly soul

she is old and young

she is light years away

and right here now

just as we are here

and are everywhere

but in fireworks of celebrity

unseen unheard unknown

 

05 Erato, Muse of Lyric Poetry

everything always lovely

her eyes her hair the way

she moves her body

Erato is like the sea

washing up on the shore

rising and falling in waves

poets call on Erato in their

darkest moments when love

turns sour or the stars cross

and when inspiration fails

they call her then too hoping

she’ll stand by them in love and lyric

it’s partly her fault because she

shoots words into the sky

like arrows and whoever

feels those arrows falls in love

with the next person they encounter

but who can get angry with Erato

so full of grace she picks up her lyre

sings  with a voice that is as clear

as a night sky filled with stars

 

06 Kleio, Muse of History

when history is in dispute

who can you trust but Kleio

she was there and if not her

then one of her sisters

her kinship is wide enough

to draw in the world

it’s not in the telling

but in the unravelling

who speaks true who does not

one will claim celebrity status

say fame is the key to import

another says the least known

are the most trustworthy

for they have nothing

to gain or to lose

the poets too stay firm

to their metre there since

the beginning of time

history in the making

is a troublesome way to go

for only later can we see

the made and the unmade

so unravel your tales

and I will weave them anew

 

07 Euterpe, Muse of Music

Euterpe is in her own heaven

the fifth dimension where

beyond human perception

play the music of the spheres

music from every time

and every place

Euterpe is well-schooled

in these matters

she is the muse of music

music creates pleasure

which in turns leads

us to dance

some say Euterpe

is the brightest asteroid

in the solar system

Pythagoras string theorist

and mystic mathematician

gave Euterpe

the number eight

that coiling infinity

ogdoad like a dancer

endlessly spinning

to the sound of

the double flute

astrophysicists

are divided some

think Euterpe might

be responsible for dark

matter but some things

are unaccountable

 

08 Thalia, Muse of Comedy

it’s hard to be funny

when Thalia abandons you

but each of us has to get up

draw on inner reserves

and make one more joke

Aristophanes managed it

and you can too bring on

actors and instead of high

boots make them wear socks

dress them in rustic outfits

put a shepherd’s crook in

their hands – I know more than

enough about droving sheep

to laugh at myself – then she

can start her bucolic verses

accompanied by comedic

flourishes a few stereotypes

here and there won’t go astray

put a buffoon at the centre

and his air-head wife

she can parrot some phrases

give the quiet one a trumpet

to blow away sadness

don’t worry there will be

a happy ending now sing

along with me it’s simple

tiotiotiotinx sing again

the bird never tires calling

sing blow that trumpet

recite the verse and be happy

 

09 Terpsichore, Muse of Dance

I write in fragments

because that is how

our history is recorded

whether it’s Sappho

Corinna or Roman

Sulpicia

Corinna is called

by Terpsichore to sing

for the young girls

women of Tanagra

wear the white peplos

their

garments are ornamented

with stories tales from

the old mothers

the girls dance to the

partheneia calling one

another

sounds whirling down

the valleys to the

rivers below the cliffs

their voices rising

to heights where

birds fly

grasshoppers

spring and spin

in death throes

returning after death

to the Muses’

home

there sit the Muses

each with her own

sphere Terpsichore

brought the Sirens

into the world

singing

she is the ennead

containing others

she turns gathering

all in her dance

ending the beginning

beginning the end

 

I wrote this sequence during 2016. The Tenth Muse, Sappho is included in my novel Dark Matters (2017, Spinifex Press) as are references to the Mother of the Muses, Mnemosyne.

Meet Mago Contributor, Susan Hawthorne

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