Once we all believed in rings:
One summer I still believed all
Shakespeare’s sonnets were written in the fever
Of love, to one woman,
Who was real.
I read them all, that summer, that sonnet summer.
I was still hanging onto young, at fifty-three,
Spreading out his little tome of poems like ragged
Weeds and flowers on their pageboy pages
During soccer games.
I saw occurring and recurring
Shakespeare’s certain and unfaltering love
And I saw grass.
Love is as perennial
You know, as the grass.
Other parents found me funny
In the New York afternoons with
My little book.
I had stopped wearing a wedding ring:
The present was only
Foolish and I was
Only Shakespeare’s girl.
My husband worked a job.
Every sonnet I read, in order, read looking up now and
Then to bright spearshoots of grass
Miniature ferocious soldiers with their spears
Breathing blade by blade—
Their breathing, the reading, all happening
In the swag hammock of folding nylon chair.
My blue chair my boat canopy between two worlds.
We three girls wrote sonnets, high school,
We won the prizes.
Roses blooming sweet one wrote about
(That sister-poet later tore down arbor, shredding,
Mocking every petal) and another
Wrote about Anderson and his
Mermaid, pulling us to the deep where the most envied
Of all women, the mermaid, lurks calendula gold-sun
Love-burst in her heart, laying stones around the statue.
(This sister-poet later brought stone upon stone, to
Awkwardly break it.)
My friends and I, we all wrote our sunlessness, the sonnets,
A sonnet not about roses or a prince but about
A room where
No mermaid stepped or rose
Ever suffered bloom—-
An art room, a conjuring spot,
Where hopes meet dreams and dreams
Meet their death: the life cycle of potpourri.
An ugly room, except for making.
Shakespeare’s—who was she? At first that summer
I dreamed I was, by sonnet twenty three.
His (the May-King’s)—-time had brought
Me, I was his reading mermaid in his
Unsure arms (why sun so strong, grass so pungent?
What is American? Is time silent?)
And cognac-drafty dark-tannined scent of old roses
From their jar were blended in my laughing seaweed hair—
But I to an art room went to make
Cement or metal effigy, both
Hollow, to set aside
Thirty summers passed high school and the sonnet
Prizes, three more summers since soccer raged
So white on fields of green, and now,
A truth so terrible I hate it written.
There is no belief in me anymore, after that summer,
In rings, or garlands, or ocean circles. Sea anemone?
Roses are to me like the dustmop
As a violinist loves having the evening of play over,
Hating all the while his hallowed bow tie cinched like a soul
Under strain, the rooms of variable faces——
Because he did not write the music, himself,
Shakespeare loved only what he
Imagined, animated, conjured,
Insisted was coming to life, though it never lived:
It was art, it was a horse that ploughed
And noticed trees, and waited for dinner of oats.
Shakespeare, he was wanting a high room
In a low but secret castle, and the sunset
Whose vapors colored could be turned to work:
His love all paper.