What you are calling hunger I think is the same as what I call Bitchmuse. Let me introduce you to Bitchmuse.

I’ve known her all my life in her many guises.

We used to have a volatile, on-again, off-again relationship. I courted her, she demurred. She pursued me, I balked. The reunions were blissful, but often brief. Since I became “serious” about making art, she hasn’t left me.

I would never go so far as to say I want her to leave me. For one thing, I don’t want her to leave me; she’s my destiny, my hope. She makes life worth living. She gets me out of bed no matter how much less painful it might be to snooze.

But also, & mostly, Bitchmuse is a huge, relentless, monomaniacal pain in my ass.

Bitchmuse yanks me out of bed to write down a series of words or images. Bitchmuse torments me on the cushion, when I am working hard at letting go of working hard. I haven’t got through a shower in years without Bitchmuse deciding this is the perfect time to deliver the key to whichever door I have been pounding my tiny fists against. I can’t go on a walk without stumbling over fragments of a poem Bitchmuse scattered along my path, or a physical trope that demands my attention.

Bitchmuse delicately lifts her crinolines & shits copiously on the easy, pleasant piece I am close to finishing, then abducts me to the surface of the sun & demands: EAT THIS.

Bitchmuse never lets me forget that the pile of sand at the bottom of the hourglass is big & that the small pile at the top is dwindling & that the whole damn thing is too heavy for me to turn it over & that Bitchmuse can but she jolly well won’t.

Bitchmuse ignores safewords. I don’t even bother with such feeble devices any more.

Bitchmuse does not care what I have done. She is only interested in what I am doing, what I haven’t done yet, what I have always said I could not or would not do.

Nothing, including & especially nothing itself, is immune from Bitchmuse’s notice. A bowl of rice or a waterfall, the morning commute or a devastating industrial accident, Higgs Boson or fall fashions — Bitchmuse is there, yanking at my wrist,insistent.

Bitchmuse & I are a scrappy, long-term, nonmonogamous team. My work is her food. Her hunger is my food. Together we are a self-sufficient maw, like a Mayan god that manifests as a gape, which must be fed the blood of royalty to provide the stage upon which visions appear, visions that need to be seen more than I, apparently, need to sleep.



1. I have food to eat. I choose not to eat it because I want to experience hunger.

2. I can pass a test about physics. I still need to know what gravity is.

3. I made a performance. People knew when to clap & they did. Now I can work on the heart of the artichoke.

4. I have food to eat. I refuse to eat it for political, religious, or emotional reasons.

5. Meet Bitchmuse. She travels with me. She whispers to me all through my long commute. By the time I get home I am trembling with hunger.

6. I look into the well-stocked refrigerator until the door-open alarm sounds but I can’t see anything I want to eat. I look at page after page of dictionaries & I look at all the books & files full of words but I can’t find the one word I need.

7. I watch the dancers moving. My muscles remember moving like that. I wiggle my foot, which I had tucked under me. It reminds me of all the hurts.

8. I have food to eat. I know if I eat it, the consequence will be physically painful. So I will not eat it.

9. There’s a difference between horny & hungry. What is the difference, again?

10. My ghost womb longs for the burden of a baby.

11. I have food to eat. I eat it, even though I know my hunger is for something else that I cannot or will not get.

12. Tick tick tick tick TICK TICK tick tick tick TICK TICK TICK tick. How long? Will the next cancer go rogue? When? How long? Tick TICK tick TICK TICK.

13. I came this far. I set myself a goal to come this far even though it was hard & no one else cared if I came here. I got here. There is nothing to eat here except the certainty that there is more.


<em>Photo by S. M. Selby.</em>

<em>Lydia Swartz’s motto is </em>solvitur ambulando<em>. Her poem was recently set to a piece for <a href=”http://www.bhamrep.org/calendar” target=”_blank”><b>Phrasings by Bellingham Repertory Dance</b></a> &amp; she read at the <a href=”http://fivealarms.wordpress.com/” target=”_blank”><b>Spring 2013 Greenwood Litcrawl</b></a><b>.</b> Swartz’s <a href=”http://minorarcanapress.com/swartz.html” target=”_blank”><b>deck of shuffle poems comes out in fall 2013 from Minor Arcana Press</b></a>. Find Lydia &amp; the Seattle Spoken Word Calendar at <a href=”http://zenpropaganda.com/” target=”_blank”><b>zenpropaganda.com</b></a>.</em>

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