THE POET'S INVOCATION TO HIS MUSEby Irving Layton
My alter ego, my diabolical other Selfwhere are you? A whole mouth goes by,yet not a single peep from you.Let me have it straight! Did you grow carelessfrom too long service? Or was it the tremors of old agemade you spiteful and prankish. You goneinvoking your attendancemy scribbles are as pale as a watermark.No fire in them, no punch. Return, make my brainboil again. Make it seethe with the bloodof electrified hitmen and of gallant warriorsdying in an odious cause. How many sheetsmust I blacken before you [set?] a premonitory fireto make my Self [shudder?] with familiar joy.I'm serious, not even Coleridge's famous odeon despondency cheers me, nor Shelley's moan,marvellous and eloquent, while the bay's watersaround him sparkle and dance.What hope for that mortal so lost to gloom evenanother's misery fails to restore his self-esteem[to rectitude?] with one of life's vital lies or illusions.My case is desperate. Haul your ass over herepronto. Abandoned, I'll sit here foreverlike a paralytic, like a just-invented Frankensteinwaiting for that first charge to shock him back to life.(One of Layton's last poems, found in Box 31 of the Layton collection at Concordia University in Montreal. A clutch of pages stapled together; multiple drafts of a poem the poet began, but never completed, towards the end of his writing life. Transcribed by Donald Winkler, with help from Anna Pottier. Photo by Terry Brynes. Originally published in Books in Canada, March 2003. )
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