Jack Foley


Jack and Adelle invoke the muse at the 11th Berkeley Poetry Festival
May 11, 2013

Video by John Rhodes


written at the request of The Berkeley Poetry Festival
delivered May 11, 2013
            for two voices

Three poem audio

Not I, not I, but the wind—
Not I, not I, but the wind—

(He:) No Muse-poet grows conscious             (She:) No Muse-poet grows conscious
of the Muse except by experience                    of the Muse except by experience
of a woman in whom the Goddess                   of a man in whom the God
is to some degree resident. A Muse-               is to some degree resident. A Muse-
poet falls in love, absolutely, and his                poet falls in love, absolutely, and her
true love is for him the embodiment of             true love is for her the embodiment of
the Muse                                                              the Muse.       
But the real, perpetually obsessed Muse-poet
Museum: shrine of the Muses (Museyroom / Mousike)
Local cults of the Muses were often associated with springs or with fountains
O lady myn, that called art Cleo,
Thow be my speed fro this forth, and my Muse,
To ryme wel this book til I haue do;
Me nedeth here noon othere art to vse.
ffor-whi to euery louere I me excuse
That of no sentement I this endite...

We cannot know the fabulous head
Where the eyeapples ripened. Yet
The torso burns. A candelabrum
In which gaze glows,
Blinding. And the soft turn
Of the loins—where genitals
Burn, and procreation flares.
Nothing but destruction, fragment, defacement, stone—
Not the wild animal’s fur we feel.
This star would not have burst forth,
Raging with light
Until: There is no place that does not see you.
You must change your life.
Only the one who has raised the lyre
(who are you?) only the one who has descended
into the realm
of the dead (the poor creatures) and sang there with such passion
that love was released and yet lost—only that singer
(the look of bewildered grace on the face of the newly dead)
can praise
                        (simultaneous with:)
                                                            only the one (who are you?) who has eaten
                                                            poppy with the dead (the taste will not leave me)
                                                            cannot lose (though he has lost the woman)
                                                            the note
                                                            look at the reflection in the pond
                                                            hard to make out (what is there?)
                                                            grasp the Image
                                                            only in Doubleness
                                                            are the voices (I am lost in time)
                                                            full                     of tenderness
                                    —“But nothing promised that is not fulfilled”
Only here, in this ancient space,
This circle into which

Clio, Thalia, Erato, Euterpe, Polyhymnia, Calliope, Terpsichore, Urania, Melpomene
Melpomene, Urania, Terpsichore, Calliope, Polyhymnia, Euterpe, Erato, Thalia, Clio
            Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me

SOURCES: D.H. Lawrence, “Song of a Man Who Has Come Through”; Robert Graves, The White Goddess; Wikipedia article on The Muse; Geoffrey Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde; Rilke, “Statue of an Archaic Apollo” (my translation);  Rilke, “Nur wer die Leier schon hob,” I, 9 from the Sonnets to Orpheus (my free translation); Robert Graves, “To Juan at the Winter Solstice.” Chaucer is insisting that his poem is not “personal,” not “subjective”: “of no sentement I this endite.” Wikipedia on The Muse: “Diodoros...states (Book I.18) that Osiris first recruited the nine Muses, along with the Satyrs or male dancers, while passing through Ethiopia, before embarking on a tour of all Asia and Europe, teaching the arts of cultivation wherever he went.” Wikipedia on Orpheus: his “lyre was carried to heaven by the Muses, and was placed among the stars. The Muses also gathered up the fragments of his body and buried them at Leibethra below Mount Olympus, where the nightingales sang over his grave.” O for a muse of fire!
“Sorry I didn’t get to the post office yet. Life kept interfering.”
It keeps getting in the way of Everything!
Of course it’s not as bad as Death
Or even as being Severely Comatose
Or being (yccch) on “Life” Support.
But it’s bad enough.

L’Chaim they say but what do they know?
What do they know about Life?

What do they know about Anything?
They’re children!
I know how it seeps into your energy, makes you avoid the necessary task, makes you slumber when you would rather mail a package, makes you think, “I need a cup of coffee” while it puts up barriers to your going to Starbucks. I know, I know.
Have you ever been half in love with easeful Life?
I remember when everyone thought it was “just a magazine.”



the tenderness I
            the tenderness I
when you write
            when you write
or speak to me
            or speak to me
is a sort of splendor
            is a sort of splendor
a light
            a light
that tenderness
            that tenderness
renders and shapes
            renders and shapes
a consciousness
            a consciousness
that bends
            that bends
and lets me see
            and lets me see
in the light
            in the light
in which
            in which
I see
            I see


There was no one in the room
There was no person there
No one with whom
I could explore care
Could explore where
I had failed or turned away
(When I should have stayed)
No one there
To say
Or sing—

“Till you”




CHINESE NEW YEAR (2004)                      

the new moon
the first day
the full moon 15 days later

the “Lantern Festival” on the 15th day Z
[my wife’s birth, in summer, the 15th of August]
who are my ancestors?
poets who lived and still live
as I breathe and speak them
poets who have become their own words
in a loss loss loss which cannot be countered or counted
all the dead
“Cold Pastoral” says Keats
Magic at the full moon
“A full moon in March,” says that Irishman
“Loonely in me loneness,” says that other Irishman
“Make it new,” says Ezra Pound
all the dead voices which teach and beckon
all the superegos which inhabit my lines
in a chorus they speak:
We are the ancestors
We are the cause
of whatever newness you accomplish
You are nothing
but us
whirled round

“surrounding the stove”
I have cleaned my house
I have put away my brooms, brushes, dusters and dust pans
If you sweep the dirt out over the threshold you will sweep one of the family away,
you will sweep out the good luck
you must always sweep inward, then gather it up
take it out the back door
welcome the year with the noise of firecrackers
open the door so the old year can go
wear red
pay debts
do not use a knife or scissors
keep the luck
inside, keep words alive
keep the ancestors
bring bright
to light
in long
welcome the fire that flares in the bright sun’s mirror.





I can take pictures but I think

I cannot capture
	I can capture
The light that pours from you
	The night that moves
As you move 
	In my spirit house
Through the house
	In the bone that reaches
As you move through
	In the fingers that touch
My consciousness as you make
	In the organ that rises
A light sound that devours
	At the moment of my thinking
As you move in the unforgiving
	In the rich sickness
Hours I cannot capture
	I explore through
Love that pours through me like a redolent river
	Nothing but language
Like a sound like an odor cataphoresis
	In the spore
Of spirit as it enters redolent
	In the sphere
	Of heart

Copyright © 2013 Jack Foley