Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Donkey Muse, part 1

Beso the Donkey, by Richard Jarrette (Michigan State U. Press, 2010)
It was said of Cezanne
that he could look at things like a dog
("Cezanne and Beso")

It would be easy to say too much about this spare book, to quote and quote until the dance dissolved in notation. All you really need to know is this, from the title poem:

You could almost believe that a rock
to eat, dust to drink,
are all that he needs.
You would be more wrong
than the one who named him Beso
thinking that the kiss he gave
for a sliver of apple
was love.

This is the donkey muse: his name spoken in every title of 71 poems, a beast made of words whose weather is Sappho and Pound, Merwin and Rilke. Each rain or wind that touches him gives him more stubborn body, delineates four hooves, scarred haunches, his unknowable being. I want to tell what happens when "Beso Stomps," or how he is Pavarotti--not how you think--and Abraham Lincoln, but better to read Jarrette's book whole. He's answered my questions about the Muse, for the moment at least:

I set my chessmen on the ocean
replacing each one as it sinks.
I have many.
--"The Real Beso"

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