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Five Shakespeares, Three Pics.



I will not fly
to or from
the murdering
that beckons me.

Elsinore roars
with life. Cannons fire
each royal cheer. My
uncle fears me,
that I know. I am
light as the ashes that

shall follow his death.
Boom! Another! Oh, my
mother! Drunk as a rainbow
in the serpent’s eye.

I fly from what I would become:
a murderer – corrector – this
pestilent world’s avenger, lancing

his own heart
like a swelling


I am not what I seem,
nor seem what I am. I am
a man in whom wolves
sleep, satiate, and prey roam,
ignorant, and the eye
of God watches, indifferent.

Imagine: the glint in distant
stars over winter quiet, the silent
thump of a winter rabbit, its long
blue tracks in shadowed sheets
of snow. I am

the cold wind that blows and
traces lovingly its fine
coat; I am the rabbit;
I am the wolf that tracks it;
and I am, like God, the steel
eye that stares down indifferent, oh
majestic! – from above.

Romeo post-balcony

There are some days I wake
and I just want to love.
I could love the air,
the motes that sparkle with morning
come to greet me.
A bird song is so beautiful
I feel my heart trilling along,
I can scarcely keep it in my chest.
I have barely slept
for all the joy riding in me.
I do not want to get out of bed,
I want to lie here and feel the song rising
so strong I feel I could
as if the Earth were a chorus
so overwhelming that, like a bird’s flight,
one moment we are in the midst of it
and in the next, love,
we are gone.


I have seen it in your eyes,
The prize I held mine,
Gifted to another,
With blushes.

Oh, my brother! – Hermione …
You have left me

Smile and laugh.
Nod. Do not pale.
Perhaps you are


The worst thing
Is pain where
Nothing should be:

A cry in a canyon.
The emptied kingdom.
This island hemmed

By worthless seas.

Reach down.
There is more.
Take hold of anger.


A whole world folded
In a woman’s smile
Handed to another


Like a platter at noon –
“More, my Lord?” –
Before her husband’s eyes.

Before her husband’s very eyes!
Handing him



What is this welling anger?
What, this disappointment?
Why do tears start
At the littlest
Revenge is not what I’d dreamed
When I came first, settled
(like a panther)
To wait.

I shall miss this place.

I have made it home:
My daughter, bold Ariel, that monster,
And me. Milan is

I shall miss this strange

But she has grown, my daughter,
The unseen flower, like life
Borne in hidden places, mountain
Ridges, far-flung fields, unshorn hedges –
Blooming, I know, I have studied,
Everywhere. It makes one feel old.

I shall miss this place.

The sun-sprayed waves,
The gentle rebuff of the
Southern wind on my cheeks,
The sparkling sea, carrying me,
Carrying me –

Alone, I have no enemies, or none
I care to own, Ferdinand

(and nothing left to write,
Middleton) –

Carrying me, carrying me,
Like an old seabird,

Three pics

Cold fire

The battle did not take place in his heart. He knew where he was going. The future was certain, or it was certain he would do what it took to realize it. It shone in his eyes like a photo negative – they would only see its beauty later. What they saw now was darkness, but that did not matter – they knew where they were going. The battle did not take place in their hearts. The world would dance – like a burning man. Dance, Dance, Dance, burning man! You are beautiful.

Zbigniew Herbert

He was always struggling for clarity and immediacy to provide a true vision of life. Sometimes, one was sacrificed for the other, and in either case what you had was obfuscation. Words staggered across the page. What you saw was ink and letters and typescript on the perfect void of the page. The page did not vanish and there appear life’s immediacy so that you were reminded you could (almost) touch it. A good poet is like a sign-post: ‘This way.’ A good reader is like a traveler without a compass: ‘Okay.’ A good poem is like the Burning Bush, which we’ve all come to see.


Prose is better for love than poetry. That’s what TS Eliot said. He wrote about Divine Love, or love for the Divine, and paternal love in ‘Marina’, or desired love in ‘Prufrock’. Or love collapsing like a cliff in the poem that made him most famous. He looked at love as one looks at a gathering hurricane, in awe, incredulous that such a thing should exist, then very late in life was surprised at how gentle it was, how easy, when he married his secretary. He wrote no more poetry after that, only naughty, happy notes for her alone to see.

WILLIAM PRENDIVILLE is the author of Love is nothing but the fruit of a long moment and Atlantic Winds.

One Comment

  1. wrote:

    This is great.

    Sunday, 29 January 2023 at 16:45 | Permalink

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