Crepuscule for Muriel

Marilyn Hacker


Crepuscule for Muriel

Marilyn Hacker


Poem introduction

Here's another homage to another poet. It's called 'Crepuscule with Muriel'. Muriel is, of course, Muriel Rukeyser. Muriel Rukeyser had a severe stroke fairly early in her life, which is to say in her fifties, and taught herself again to talk, to walk, to write and wrote about that. And the title of course is also a tip of the hat to Thelonious Monk, 'Crepuscule with Nellie'.

Crepuscule for Muriel

Crepuscule for Muriel

Instead of a cup of tea, instead of a milk-
silk whelk of a cup, of a cup of nearly six
o'clock teatime, cup of a stumbling block,
cup of an afternoon unredeemed by talk,
cup of a cut brown loaf, of a slice, a lack
of butter, blueberry jam that's almost black,
instead of tannin seeping into the cracks
of a pot, the void of an hour seeps out, infects
the slit of a cut I haven't the wit to fix
with a surgeon's needle threaded with fine-gauge silk
as a key would thread the cylinder of a lock.
But no key threads the cylinder of a lock.
Late afternoon light, transitory, licks
the place of the absent cup with its rough tongue, flicks
itself out beneath the wheel's revolving spoke.
Taut thought's gone, with a blink of attention, slack,
a vision of "death and distance in the mix"
(she lost her words and how did she get them back
when the corridor of a day was a lurching deck?)
The dream-life logic encodes in nervous tics
she translated to a syntax which connects
intense and unfashionable politics
with morning coffee, Hudson sunsets, sex;
then the short-circuit of the final stroke,
the end toward which all lines looped out, then broke).
What a gaze out the window interjects:
on the southeast corner, a black Lab balks,
tugged as the light clicks green toward a late-day walk
by a plump brown girl in a purple anorak.
The Bronx-bound local comes rumbling up the tracks
out of the tunnel, over west Harlem blocks
whose windows gleam on the animal warmth of bricks
rouged by the fluvial light of six o'clock.


from Desesperanto: Poems 1999-2002 (W W Norton, 2003), © Marilyn Hacker 2002, used by permission of the author and the publisher

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