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Translations of Shakespeare’s sonnets, and five more poems.




But thou contracted to thine own bright eyes

From brightest beams falls out desire &
to prompt our heads ripening not bumping
below bliss. Clear eye & lip. Drops
an angling, pools out the love contract. But never
would sign. About Lust. Grasp it
a no-go, see him for dust. The cut
the little twist the un-grasp, all intricately
bound in him, around him, over.
Never a backward thought or behind.
Pulled by other things is better & out
of sight… Likes which thistle-like require
no constant; change without light
winds. Objects are not people,
but at the start who realizes. Ha!



When forty winters shall besiege thy brow

You don’t know the finitude of love
right now but it will come. Like rain
it always does. Or objects lightening
in the sun’s light. The door below
the window next the shade. Who will stop it,
vain passing praise, & be a stop
to youth? Who will pluck the mushrooms at their
height? Who will you explain that to;
take them up hillsides & down; then
trundling home & back to books – when yre
an old man going on, boring
everyone, wth ravaged heart & mind?
Who will love you then if not those children
we shld have, except you won’t have me?



Die single, and thine image dies with thee

Does the mirror not exactly prove
the portrait of yr youth is fast fading?
& seem to say – as if it could – it’s time
you stirred to settle, bettered yrself, taking
to another all that love you lavish
on yrself only; lent beauty
to a purpose? Are you so proud?
So sure yr plans add up to more than time’s
Big Plan – that thread for which we busy
all till the last Snipping! Wld you
still rather die single, leaving
no trace of loveliness in the spring,
than have to love & work to share
such happiness with the world’s eyes?



Nature’s bequest gives nothing but doth lend

Selfish – though lovely! You, remove
yrself frm circulation, like a Prynne
poem, when the market craves the body
of yr works. The words plus the body.
How sore will nature take it when she sees
this loan of hers, utterly squandered, on
no one but you you you, whilst
yr readership, me, wastes in waiting
on a note, a lovely look, a smile.
& it’s not up to you to waste love:
a common gift from our first parents.
When you die no one will look you up
in the book of time, no one will know to
– except me. Better treat me better!



Nor it nor no remembrance what it was:

Unfair tyrant. All those hours wasted,
as I could’ve told you, now come back
to waste yr peace with care. For you have planned
badly – or not at all – the change of summer
into fell Autumn. So do our lives
fade with the fading of the light. Yet you
fritter months & days, keep yrself apart
with work, distilling thoughts with no innate
sweetness in them. & I too am reduced,
waiting on yr word, which I’ll not get
till you’ve done. O you are yr own worst
enemy! & I’m a fool to stick,
burr-like, to a ground whch foresight shows
is without future or memory.



Be not self-will’d, for thou art much too fair

True, sadness pursues my winter.
To long to be that mouth or vile or O
you fill – distilling spring to be drunk
daily to excess. & how.
That treasured little source wch secretly
stores up the past in all its sweet difficulty,
multiplying sweetness there. From one
to ten wth such velocity. Sweets
beyond sweet. Too hard not to have you
be that after all then.
Or kind. Pursue beyond bound our pleasure
turned pain – for you are too self-willed.
Too full of self. Impossible. Naught left
but to make my bed amongst dust.



Lo! in the orient when the gracious light

Exoticism has you all caught up,
chasing from east to west whatever falls
before yr eyes. Nothing so nice
as newness or exciting. & I,
however various, chameleon,
am always one. Tho true. I’d journey
to the far ends on my knees
to please you, but to no end. Burnt
by yr nearness! Curling up death
in yr absence. What a desert: being
without yr eye. What shadow
stretches between here & the grave.
Look on me adoring just once
more. Rein me in; hope is reborn.



O! change thy thought, that I may change my mind:

Why pretend you really love anyone
at all? When you are cruel even to yr
self (tho unaware), for you take nothing
to yrself but what can lead to nothing.
No, not even after death.
Or why pretend you know how to be gracious
& kind? Is it a trick of universal
hope, read in so many others’ faces,
that sure you can’t leave off pretending you too
feel likewise? But it is all show.
The shade you shld offer gentle love
is taken up with selfishness & hate.
Or simply absence. Just you wait. Nothing
will come of nothing.



But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive

Momentarily, celestial bodies
pressure us to tell, or not. Why do we
now expand into each other,
now withdraw love or feel distance
into another kind of difference?
Of all the strangest, what a thing desire
is – that makes us do & then not.
That stops sense right at the point we shld
be eyed with pity. Your love is like
that: most inconstant of traits
beneath stars. From which I predict
only a sad fate. Truth & beauty
bumping like dull rocks through space,
burning everything in their wake.


Five poems

1. Hello poem

Hello poem
You are expensive

Hello poem
I cannot remember

Hello poem
Compartmentalizing the silence

Hello poem
To be a mama means breaking off –

Hello poem
I no longer fit inside you

Hello poem
You no longer fit inside me

Hello poem
I miss you!

Hello poem
Do you miss me?

Hello poem
You are beyond-compare-precious

Hello poem
My old friend

Hello poem
The other night I was alone. You weren’t near me.

Hello poem
You kicked me in the head till I woke!

Hello poem
You’re such a needy baby

Hello poem
We play at silence games. You win.

Hello poem
My silhouette makes you out / chases you down the hill

Hello poem
Suddenly traffic

Hello poem
Togetherness pillow

Hello poem
Glue echolocation

Hello poem
You exist! You can!

Hello poem
Hello poem
Hello poem

2. Return to poetry

I return here after years spent shouting in the agora
til my voice grew hoarse
from where I woke without words or illusions.

The dream of equality is much too big for a poem to take
any such narratives aren’t real
as the search for the breadknife or wondering which bills to hide or baby
jumping at my sides.

The laws that are laid down as they are exactly
and because you can see everything that’s wrong with them, but also each of the
Inside this room
the difference between speech and act won’t signify.

Arguing so long about the trees, they forgot the wood,
its leaves and blue shimmer, how it was not just a resource for our having
but a place of variousness, beauty and life.

I wash the dust from my hands and knees,
the sweat from my eyes –
lie down to peel a potato with my head still spinning –
choose a dress from out the periodic table;
forget about poetry.

3. After Ann Lauterbach

The days are creative
The days are successful

I put my lot to bed
with a sigh

I tuck it in:
another successful day!
to add to the little pile

The days are successful
The pile is mounting

The washing’s in the freezer
The dinner’s in a book

The days are creative
The days are successful

The piano’s a wry joke
laughing to me from its corner –
colluding with the past
& all those other plans

The days are creative
The days are successful

My paints are dusty
in the hall cupboard
My poems march around unborn

The days are successful
The pile is mounting

My daughter’s new spirit
has plans of her own
– nothing to do with me
– no excuse to hide behind

The days are creative
The days are successful

With tears I iron the floor
With tears, in haste, drop birdseed in the crockery
How many little lives depend on me
What a successful day!

The hours are long
The hours are long
They whip round before you’re almost looking

4. Untitled (love poem)

You are there without judgment, poem, for all the coming & going
All the whenevers
All the beauty or the ugly
The rage or the happy
The world, this phantasmagoria.

If it is true illusion in the most sacred sense of the word
what is your part of all this
blame? Why you so private yet
of it
but are you not?

No one will listen to you now.
You cannot be corrupted, monopolized or merged,
you cannot even be held
(you crush the hands that bear you up).
Nor will you fit
into a split second. Consumerized.

You are like those children growing under a great tree
centuries from now. Just wait.

5. The Passion of Peter – for Peter Riley

(after the film The Passion of Peter by Jack Wake-Walker)

Peter, Peter! You are originary man
I wish that I could tell you that
Peter, you need to have more faith
I wish I could get through to you &
Peter, I think I hadn’t made you sad
I want that you should hear me because
Peter, we are all just particles
once picked, but there’s no stopping that while
Peter, now I have you in my heart
there is a cause for joy and fear for
Peter, now you have me in my heart
I doubt your cause is non-directional though
Peter, should you ever love, I’d love
if you would not kill both of us on earth

Emily Critchley is the author of several poetry collections (with Arehouse, Bad press, Dusie, Oystercatcher, Torque, Holdfire, Corrupt and Intercapillary presses) and a selected writing: Love / All That / & OK (US) (Penned in the Margins, 2011). She is Senior Lecturer in English and Creative Writing at the University of Greenwich, and lives in London with her partner and daughter.

Some of the Shakespeare versions have appeared in The White Review. This is the first publication of the complete series.


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