Thinking of Shakespeare, Caught At A Closed Gate —



Thinking of Shakespeare, Caught At a Closed Gate–

I hear him cursing “Zounds” (‘His wounds”)
at the dusk-dropped gate, its iron lattice,
even then, mottled with thick and thin.
He presses his forehead almost
into its rivulets, nipping cold, as
Hamnet of an instant pricks
his heart, like a foul hollow tripped upon
in the sluicing cobbles,
that little tiny boy—

How foolish to toy
with what is no more, he thinks,
knowing even as his next breath moves the rain
like a feather
that only one who never had a son
could think
so foolishly.

For his poor fool
is dead.

So, his mind works—words, stones skipping
across a river, light slipping
across a sea—figures
of speech that
from tossed ships
salvage sails
for wings–
even as he pulls his own cloak, sodden–
(for the rain, it seems, has rained down
every day)–
closer than the night, and heads back
to a pallet at the theater,
looking up to the heavens
for signs of gentling.



Here’s a draft poem for the 24thday of April, National Poetry Month, written for Ella’s (of Ella’s Edge) prompt on With Real Toads. Ella’s prompt was to write a poem based upon a sentence from a book. I opened up Bill Bryson’s book on Shakespeare— a section  that discusses the period after Shakespeare lost his young son, Hamnet. Of course, very little is known of Shakespeare’s feeling about the loss except through his plays. I’ve tried to incorporate very loosely some lines from plays, including King John, King Lear and Twelfth Night, and very obliquely, The Merchant of Venice. “Zounds” was a euphemism for God’s wounds or Jesus’ wounds.   The sentence that was the spring board is below:

“A separate question is why Shakespeare moved in this period to Bankside, a not particularly salubrious neighborhood when his theatrical connection was still with the Theatre, at precisely the other side of the city. It must have been a slog shuttling between the two (and with the constant risk of finding his way barred when the City gate was locked each dusk) ….” Bill Bryson, Shakespeare.

(PS – I appreciate that the photo has little to do with the poem!  Agh!)


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15 Comments on “Thinking of Shakespeare, Caught At A Closed Gate —”

  1. figures
    of speech that
    from tossed ships
    salvage their sails
    for wings– that! How brave to attempt Shakespeare and you have done it brilliantly. Amazing!

  2. skypoet Says:

    My all-time favourite book, that never leaves my bedside.
    Very appropriate for the 450th/50th anniversary.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Hey Skypoet–I tried to go to your blog but I could not comment! I really liked the one for April 24th about the disjunction between men and Gods. Thanks. k

  3. Steve King Says:

    I love the way your imagination ran with the prompt. This is a wonderful examination of the idea that takes us into someplace…other. You’ve really uncovered some profound dimensions in your character, and found eloquence and depth in describing that we could easily attribute to him. This is very fine.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks, Steve. I was so happy to get away from myself as it were, and when I saw the prompt, was staying in my daughter’s apartment and saw this book, I thought it would be fun to just do something a bit different. I like Bryson a great deal, but there is so little that we know about Shakespeare–really it is almost all surmise–I have to read the whole book now! Anyway, thanks for your kind comment. k.

  4. hedgewitch Says:

    This is very delicately drawn, yet completely immersive–the reader is standing there passing these musings through his/her own mind as s/he reads, stopped at a closed gate, yet continuing through it into that other country of thought, memory, and even the dance with creating that is an antidote to grief and loss. I think the photo is completely appropriate in mood and theme, if a bit out of the time period, but that actually furthers the universality of the metaphor. (Forgive my late visit–had a yuck day yesterday.)

  5. Kerry O'Connor Says:

    What a grand nod to Shakespeare around the 450th celebration of his birth, k. I have had a long and close association with his works so this was a particular delight to me. You focus very much on his humanity, the sorrow of a son dead too young. I especially love these lines:
    So, his mind works—words, stones skipping
    across a river, light slipping
    across a sea—figures
    of speech that
    from tossed ships
    salvage sails
    for wings

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks, Kerry–I rather think it should be stream but not river, but I can only associate Shakespeare with rivers! Thanks much for your kind comment and all your work this month. K.

      On Fri, Apr 25, 2014 at 10:43 AM, ManicDDaily wrote:


  6. Ella Says:

    Brilliant and filled with curiosity and longing to hear more! Your descriptive vision pairs well with the associations we all could feel putting in this position! Bravo, I love your poem~

  7. Salvaging sails for wings – what a remarkable image – I re-read this after reading your process notes and love how you put me right inside Shakespeare’s mind and his grief. The picture actually does complement the poem very well, the bleakness and grayness, and his heart full of tears……..beautifully done.

  8. claudia Says:

    beautiful images here k. – my fav being…even as his next breath moves the rain
    like a feather…. delicately drawn indeed….

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks, Claudia–the feather is drawn from King Lear actually–you may know that–but it may not be so performed in Germany–at the end when he, Lear, carries in his daughter’s body and he tries to see if she is breathing. Thanks again for all you do. k.

  9. Delicate, beautiful, heartbreaking.

  10. grapeling Says:

    elegant, K – this is beautiful ~

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