James Richardson, “In Shakespeare”
In Shakespeare a lover turns into an ass
as you would expect. People confuse
their consciences with ghosts and witches.
Old men throw everything away
because they panic and can’t feel their lives.
They pinch themselves, pierce themselves with twigs,
cliffs, lightning, and die—yes, finally—in glad pain.
You marry a woman you’ve never talked to,
a woman you thought was a boy.
Sixteen years go by as a curtain billows
once, twice. Your children are lost,
they come back, you don’t remember how.
A love turns to a statue in a dress, the statue
comes back to life. Oh God, it’s all so realistic
I can’t stand it. Whereat I weep and sing.
Such a relief, to burst from the theatre
into our cool, imaginary streets
where we know who’s who and what’s what,
and command with Metrocards our destinations.
Where no one with a story struggling in him
convulses as it eats its way out,
and no one in an antiseptic corridor,
or in deserts or in downtown darkling plains,
staggers through an Act that just will not end,
eyes burning with the burning of the dead.
Sandra M. Gilbert, “Last Poem About the Snow Queen”
Then it was that little Gerda walked into the Palace, through the
great gates, in a biting wind…. She saw Kay, and knew him at once;
she flung her arms round his neck, held him fast, and cried, “Kay,
little Kay, have I found you at last?”
But he sat still, rigid and cold.
—-Hans Christian Andersen, “The Snow Queen”
You wanted to know “love” in all its habitats, wanted
to catalog the joints, the parts, the motions, wanted
to be a scientist of romance: you said
you had to study everything, go everywhere,
even here, even
this ice palace in the far north.
You said you were ready, you’d be careful.
Smart girl, you wore two cardigans, a turtleneck,
furlined boots, scarves,
a stocking cap with jinglebells.
And over the ice you came, gay as Santa,
singing and bringing gifts.
Ah, but the journey was long, so much longer
than you’d expected, and the air so thin,
the sky so high and black.
What are these cold needles, what are these shafts of ice,
you wondered on the fourteenth day.
What are those tracks that glitter overhead?
The one you came to see was silent,
he wouldn’t say “stars” or “snow,”
wouldn’t point south, wouldn’t teach survival.
And you’d lost your boots, your furs,
now you were barefoot on the ice floes, fingers blue,
tears freezing and fusing your eyelids.
Now you know: this is the place
where water insists on being ice,
where wind insists on breathlessness,
where the will of the cold is so strong
that even the stone’s desire for heat
is driven into the eye of night.
What will you do now, little Gerda?
Kay and the Snow Queen are one, they’re a single
pillar of ice, a throne of silence—
and they love you
the way the teeth of winter
love the last red shred of November.