By Carol Muske-Dukes b. 1945 Carol Muske-Dukes
I try to make myself afraid,
the way you must have been afraid,   
stepping out onto this stage—
but with a fear so pure, so

perfectly informed that you strode   
out shouting. Here, where
the neon yellow arrows painted
on the floor shoot forward underfoot

in blackness—beneath the hanging   
sequence of tinted skies—out toward   
that mindless immortalizing light, now   
dark. Now I think I feel the heat you

must have felt rising from the front rows.   
A gaping fire door, a furnace:
your single body standing here
with no shadow, swinging on itself.

Had you been a fool, you might have thought   
that they loved you. They never love you,   
you said. They are hungry for the god
in his gold eclipse, the pure you on fire.

John and I move quickly, each with a handful   
of ash, scattering. The sound of no sound falling   
into the cracks in the boards, the footlights,   
the first row. A small personal snow: a prince

of dust, a villain of dust. Each part you played   
drifting up again, recomposing. I open my hand,   
I let you go—back into the lines you learned,   
back into the body and the body's beauty—

back into the standing ovation: bow after bow after bow.

Carol Muske-Dukes, “Ovation” from Sparrow. Copyright © 2003 by Carol Muske-Dukes. Used by permission of Random House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

Source: Sparrow: Poems (Random House Inc., 2003)

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Poet Carol Muske-Dukes b. 1945

Subjects Relationships, Death, Theater & Dance

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Carol  Muske-Dukes


Carol Muske-Dukes was born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1945. She earned a BA from Creighton University and an MA at San Francisco State University. Her collections of poetry include Camouflage (1975), Applause (1989), An Octave Above Thunder: New and Selected Poems (1997), Sparrow (2003), which was a National Book Award finalist, and Twin Cities (2011). In addition to poetry, Muske-Dukes has published two collections of essays, . . .

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SUBJECT Relationships, Death, Theater & Dance

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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