THE ARTIST: WHAT IT IS TO LIVE WITH THE MUSE

An earlier version of this poem, about the joy and pain of creativity, how much the lack of support for one’s artistic endeavours of whatever kind can hurt, and the monetary vs intrinsic value of art, previously appeared at a personal journal as part of the importance of audience series.

THE ARTIST: What it is to live with the muse

She sculpts, removing the extraneous stone
Revealing the beauty within
It is her greatest passion to find and display every
Curve and line

She meets him at a gallery next to a coffee shop
He’s admiring Van Gough prints
She loves them too
They talk for a while, agree to meet next week

Shes says she’s a sculptor, he wants to see her work
She’s shy at first, reluctant to display her imperfect creations
But she opens the door to her studio
To her soul

That’s fantastic, he says, I love art
I paint watercolours. We should be friends
She agrees
They become close

He takes her to the coffee shop to meet other artists
And novelists, actors, painters, singers , poets
The café becomes a refuge, where she
Can be herself

It’s nice, her best friend says, I don’t understand art
But I like looking at it, she goes on,
This is a piece I can imagine seeing
In a gallery

Art’s nice, Her mother says, But it’s not a real job
I wish you’d put more effort
Into a proper career that would
Make me proud

The piece takes form – his form, her confidante
The muse nods with approval
Hours go by as she works
Lost in bliss

You’re still working on that piece?
Her best friend  is bored of hearing about art
I don’t understand. If you’re not going to sell it
What’s the point?

You have a gift, he says
Reassuring her when no-one else understands
He too must hear the siren song
Of the muse

She can’t boast of the things other people value
Proud of jobs (why do they mostly complain about them?)
Of relationships  (why do they argue so much or cheat on their partners?)
Cars and jewellery and clothes (mundane essentials and fun luxuries but are they fulfilling?)

Her pride and her beauty come from within
She tries to explain how the need to create
Is in her blood
What it is to live with the muse

At the café the poet understands
Shy, scribbling away
They’re not really friends but
They’re kindred spirits

Yet he, who introduced her to this world of artistry
Becomes jaded by it. Stops painting watercolours.
They go to galleries; he only likes oil paintings now
Real art by real artists

Sculpture is her first love, always has been
It used to be one of his, too, love for her stonework
But he no longer wants to hear
About her work

Come to my house he says and serves tea
They look at brochures of prints by real artists
I was never an artist, he says
It’s a lie

Once an artist, always one yet he won’t listen
He now cares nothing for creativity
Unless it’s pre-approved, made authentic by a monetary value
Bought and sold

We never go to my studio or the coffee shop, she says
He shrugs. I’m too busy. I don’t have time for it
When he means he won’t make time
Not for her

He won’t make time for his own art either
It’s all pointless, after all
Trivial and amateur. Worthless
Like her creations

I’m still a sculptor, she says. Art is in my soul
My work is not pointless because it is not in a gallery
Whatever, he says and, like that,
Their friendship is over

She rarely goes to the coffee shop now
It stirs up too many memories
The good ones now tainted by the bitter end.
Yet she misses it

Still sometimes she walks past and sees him
Sipping coffee there with their once mutual friends
Or glimpses him wandering around a gallery
Appreciating true artists

Or worse encouraging some other amateur
Like he once did her
Before he lost interest in the best part of her
The artist within

There are times she loves being alone
The solitude helps her work
But sometimes all she feels
Is the loneliness

She takes up a chisel and breaks the statue’s nose
As if removing his image from her sight
Will remove her memories
And the pain

Galatea was stone made flesh but she longs to be marble
Her skin should be cold, her heart should be stone
Then she would not feel pain
Would never weep

But, whispers the muse, if you were stone
How then would you hear my voice?
Perhaps it would be better if I did not, she says
Though it’s inconceivable

Without the muse her life is empty
Yet with the muse her life is hard
No-one understands the intertwined
Joy and pain

Must I be vulnerable, she wonders, raw and exposed?
She thinks of all the artists “touched by the gods”
The ruin of their lives, and how only
Their art remains

Art should live on, that’s the point
But must she gain recognition
Not when she can appreciate it
But after she’s gone?

Sometimes it doesn’t seem to matter
If she brings down the chisel on the marble
Or her skin.
She bleeds anyway.

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