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QUINTESSENCE

Door Into Nowhere

Starry Night, Vincent van Gogh
OF THE MUSE
by May Sarton

There is no poetry in lies,
But in crude honesty
There is hope for poetry.
For a long time now
I have been deprived of it
Because of pride,
Would not allow myself
The impossible.
Today, I have learned
That to become
A great, cracked,
Wide-open door
Into nowhere
Is wisdom.

When I was young,
I misunderstood
The Muse.
Now I am older and wiser,
I can be glad of her
As one is glad of the light.
We do not thank the light,
But rejoice in what we see
Because of it.
What I see today
Is the snow falling:
All things made new.


This humble and poignant poem by New England poet May Sarton stands as the final poem in her book, Halfway to Silence. What I love about this poem is the poet's quiet sense of slipping through experience into a sense (as writer Julian Barnes put it) "of an ending" - opening to wisdom. Aged, reflective, questioning still, in her lifelong creative work Sarton sought an elusive muse; bolder, nobler inspiration and answers. In writing "Of the Muse," Sarton reveals a slowly distilled personal truth: that her lifelong art has not been the gift of inspired flights of stark originality, but the gift of incidental moments of awareness. A found truth along life's most ordinary path. Leaning in is looking closer. Opening into nowhere. What Sarton expresses when she writes, "We do not thank the light,/ But rejoice in what we see/Because of it."

"There is no poetry in lies," Sarton writes. Truth, not appearances or form, mark the beginning point of meaning. Unvarnished and unaltered. Whether we speak of the heart or the earth, our ambitions or our sins, perceiving others, ourselves, and our surroundings honestly is the beginning point. Listen in. Hear the tighter, deeper, stronger, resonating beats of growing older: understand there is no mantra or magic. Not for enhancing creativity, or for making a life. There is only this: a more honest awareness. A raw truth.

"But in crude honesty/There is hope for poetry." Can it be put more beautifully, or simply? Sarton lays aside the ego and its masks. Dispenses with falsehood and fakeries. Only comprehend, she writes, what is before us. Bow, willingly, to the pre-eminence of what is in all things, and therein, wonder. To see the snow fall, all things made new.
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