10:3: “Buying the Muse”, by Jacqueline West

10:3: “Buying the Muse”, by Jacqueline West
for S.H.

First the antique strain
of fruit, the extinct
grafts of pear, fig, plum.
Then the coin
unearthed from grit
where it roughed its spot
for thirty years,
and then, the song,
pulled out of the sleeve
of an old silk robe,
cigarettes in its pocket.
We toss in our gifts,
wait for her to climb
from the shallow saline,
a mermaid made of wishes.
We think that we have the key.
Later, when the seams
have broken, the seal
of blood drained into ink,
we will wonder
just what we exchanged
for this bargain of silence,
these flat stones where
other wishers will skim
like grasshoppers, their hunger
seeking out our names.


Jacqueline West’s poetry has appeared in journals including Goblin Fruit, Mythic Delirium, Stone Telling, Illumen, and Sybil’s Garage, and has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is the author of The Books of Elsewhere, a fantasy series for young readers that debuted from Dial/Penguin in 2010. Visit her at www.jacquelinewest.com or jacquelinewest.livejournal.com.

She says:

I wrote this while reading Sarah Hannah’s gorgeous collection, Longing Distance, not long after Hannah’s death, and I was thinking about poets and suicide, and mortality and immortality, and about the bargains we make when we’re consumed by art.



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