Charles Musser – Two Poems

For My Valentine

Unleaf yourself beneath the Bois d’arc tree
and let my chisel-tongue inscribe your bloom
with glyphs, the cuneiform for vine and grape.

And where about us, in the dawn’s curled mile,
the trees leap to their fire, the fox to luring
flesh, you’ll pitch your moan to moon

far up between the limber boughs
while I, who holds your whorl of face and hair
in hands, will carve our love’s curve smooth, and nail it

to the meadow’s breast.

To the Maid d’Orléans,
May 30, 1431


I have come to you,
struck wicked and gladly out of L’Arbres de Noix,
and wish to hold you, my brachet, my nacarat bourrée
still deep in your Ardenne winter,
and shy as the wet willow.

I ask a kindness of you. I’ve been burning
along the frayed lanyard
that you hold between your fevers
as if waiting for a tug
from your god
to frighten, leaven your prayer,
or bear you aloft.

Yet you know me: you’ve danced with me
in your gorget of polished steel, swiveled armies
on the tip of your Epee du Guerre where we shared
a warrior’s heart
and strode on sun-tongues unfurled.

Now you offer your body,
a rosary so sweet and wet,
it shames Burgundian grapes.

Feel how I’ve plucked the unctuous angels
from your brow. It’s the least
I could do. I peel away
your dress of arrasene, your ochre
hair, skin, moist periwinkle
eyes that glimpsed my love; I take
my life and grant you

pustule and nigrine face
gentle toward the sky,
parchment and spark; I offer
smoke for lenity’s sake
to sear your lungs long
before all nerves have quivered
to death and I leave you

my paramour, abandoned
by your god, by the Dauphin,
the world; have faith
in my fleur-de-lys, my Gabriel’s mercy,
my patois tongue
of Alsatian fields in the slant
of your pyre.
I Who Remain
Till the End
Ever Your Lover,

–Les Flammes de Rouen


Author’s Statement on Beauty

When I was a foolish young man (as young men are wont to be) in the army, stationed in Nuremberg, Germany in 1973, some buddies and I sped south on the autobahn one weekend for Austria and the Alps. Half drunk and high on hashish, crammed into a smoke-belching Corvair, we climbed and climbed and circled and still climbed a great mountain. Near the top, we stumbled out to a cloudless, starry night. We wrestled and punched and flung obscenities to the gods as we careened to the edge. There we stopped. And fell to our knees in stunned silence.

Below us, Salzburg lay like a glowing diadem on the breast of the earth. Although I’ve tried over the years, I’ve never been able to recapture the first moment when a boy, on the cusp of manhood, felt the grip of the profane and the banal loosen and give way to the Beautiful. Briefly, perhaps, like the image of a reclining woman in a young man’s dream, but no less eternal for its brevity.

I wrote my first poem the next morning on the back of a Stars and Stripes newspaper on our way back to our barracks. It was poor and is long lost. But I still remember the last line.

And we came down from the mountain
wild to claim our lives
like poetry and a woman’s heart.


Charles Musser lives and works in Lansing, Michigan. He writes poetry and screenplays. His poems have appeared widely and his feature screenplay, “Lorca,” based on the life of the Spanish poet, Federico Garcia Lorca, was voted one of the top 50 screenplays in the world in 2014 by the Nicholl Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He is also surrounded by Golden Retrievers.