A Glimpse of the Muse on Papineau

Sometimes your life can rock on a trivial instant,
One moment between here and there.
You’re a young painter, walking in the rain,
On Papineau, when you look back,
And there she is, at the bus stop, swinging her purse,
Her head thrown back, wet hair flying
Her laugh runs through you like fire,
Then the bus swishes up, and off she goes with it.

Paint can’t capture her. You try, of course,
To get her angles down on canvas.
You catch the weather, but not her character.
You can’t draw the laughter.
Nor can you find her again,
Though you advertise for her as a model,
Planning to turn her into a careful still life,
Like a plant, a spoon, a cup.

As time goes on, you don’t forget her,
However hard you try to bury her in boredom,
Sitting, mid-morning, compulsively checking your mail,
Ignoring your half-finished paintings, your stacked failures,
As if she had never been there at all,
Or you had never seen her laughing in the rain.
But you did, and so you go on trying,
The way we all do.

One day, when you are old and celebrated
You know it was not the glimpse but the striving,
The goddess is there in every cup and spoon,
For those who know how to see her.
And then, one night, walking down Papineau,
The streetlights run together like fire,
And there she is, her hand on her purse,
You laugh in the rain, and she gazes wide-eyed after you.

(For Karen Cooper and the John M. Ford Endowment.) 20th October 2006.