Mark Twain’s Dream

Carol Muske-Dukes

He saw his own death riding the tail
of the Great Comet. Then bet on how
he’d end the way he came in: onthe back of a fireball. But when
he dreamt his brother in that coffin
resting on two chairs, with whiteroses on his chest, one red in the
middle—he woke shouting & would
not rest until he saw Henry safe. Sothe life of a young steamboat pilot
was like a former life, remembering
how to steer the sky, that reflectionon the water—“like the space where
a cloud had been,” he wrote. But the
cloud sailed, the day dawned again,Henry’s boat blew sky-high. When
Sam came to find him, Henry lay
in a coffin resting on two chairs.Sam, looking for the roses, saw a
nurse entering with his prophecy
in her hands. There the white petals,there the blood-center, fireball &
heart: the red rose. Like a dream of
depth, surface to twain, that space where                                          a cloud had been.

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Carol  Muske-Dukes

Carol Muske-Dukes is the author of eight books of poetry (including Sparrow, a finalist for the National Book Award), four novels, and two collections of essays. She is a professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Southern California. Muske-Dukes is the former poet laureate of California and poetry columnist for the Los Angeles Times Book Review. Her honors include grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ingram Merrill Foundarion, and the National Endowment for the Arts; and the Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America. She lives in Los Angeles. (Author photo by Kelsey Muske)

Carol Muske-Dukes has won acclaim for poetry that marries sophisticated intelligence, emotional resonance, and lyrical intensity. The poems in her new collection, Blue Rose, navigate around the idea of the unattainable – the elusive nature of poetry, of knowledge, of the fact that we know so little of the lives of others, of the world in which we live. Some poems respond to matters of women, birth, and the struggle for reproductive rights, or to issues like gun control and climate change, while others draw inspiration from the lives of women who persisted outside of convention, in poetry, art, science.

“Poems of keen attunement . . . Muske-Dukes wields a finely calibrated matter-of-factness shot through with frissons of wonder as she reports on the shifting elements of dark and light in everyday moments, and tracks the physics of feeling – attraction and repulsion, chaos and sudden, rare, fleeting clarity.”
–Donna Seaman

“Scathing intelligence and an open heart: the most difficult combination in the world, and bountifully manifest on every page. In the birth room, at the death bed, beneath the falling ash of a California wildfire, before the whole, hurt spectacle of an imperiled and beloved world, these poems remind us what it’s truly like to see and feel. And oh, the achieved musicianship: every image and abutment, every syllable and turn of diction earns its place in the cadence of the whole. These poems arrive like a life line.”
–Linda Gregerson

“Much of Muske-Dukes’s verse kneads at the hardships of womanhood . . . nearly every poem heaves with grief or torment or even, at times, profound love.”
–Caitlin Youngquist

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