The Working Sister of the Muses

Brenda Hillman
Broadside image of woman's profile.
Photograph of a broadside by Empyrean Press printed in celebration of Connie Brothers. The broadside also includes Brenda Hillman's "The Working Sister of the Muses."

The muses were distracted so they called their sister in
She flew from the east to the west to the middle
Someone had told her to bring the arrows
Someone had told her to bring libations & bolts of lightning & the charts
She arrived with good cheer & wore her hair long then
She brought a sketch of the weather & the wild hearts
Thus she worked for decades among stargazers & word makers in a town with green summers & a smooth black angel
She lived among those transfixed by sorrow & desire
She never told them art is the same as not art because it is not
She never told them not to write the wildest thing in the dark
She never gave the sleepers any reason not to sleep
She never told the silver children not to play
She knew whom to phone from the maze when the word makers made trouble & when the lilies were held high

In summer the underworld pushed up seeds & her tall lover grew them as food

In autumn the pages swelled & shelves were built & word makers failed & some jokes did too

In winter the hero’s epic shield was displayed & it told all stories except hers
She could see her face in the shield though she tried to have no face 

In spring she rose early to walk when each leaf caught the sun

She celebrated prizes & mourned the deaths after their songs had gone
She did not cast down the lightning 
She did not stamp the sad harrowing ledgers
She loved the abstract ones the happy ones the ragged & the drunk  
She told them it was their energy & their dream energy went on
She was the rosy-fingered sister working for the dawn

                                    from BH with love, for CB


Brenda Hillman has published ten collections of poetry with Wesleyan University Press, including most recently Extra Hidden Life, among the Days (2018), which received the Northern California Book Award in Poetry.  Hillman was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2016 and teaches poetry at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, California.