Merchant & Commander








Venice. Another Shakespeare town. Shares
with Denmark and Verona the Distinction of a title,
of place that draws in character and soul.

Coigns of theatre and surprise hiding dark
corners, alleys with secrets, doors that rarely
open or admit the truth – contriving scenes
of perfect unity for art, for sightlines on a stage.

So here we stop to think of who we are,
which scene we enter, which line upon our lips.
Do we leap into a boat to exit slow?
Or stand upon a bridge delivering, to rousing

clash of swords? We may wait beneath
a balcony for jealousy to come, or princess
to reveal through nimble tongue her heart.

Oh, place of missing argosies and clever girls –
of handkerchiefs and arch deceivers! Taste justice hidden
in the eaves, or carried over barely moving waters.

Ariel’s Magic

for Susan

Cut free from his forked pine by words –
see them sawing away at Sycorax’s wooden knots
through bark rougher than a mother’s tongue –
he [or in a show I once was in, a she] falls into a
different kind embrace, becomes its instrument –
a spelled out reading from another captured
heart, an island-limited old man in whose great books
are all the matter of his universe, his principality.
And in the air above a simple stage, set in a
castle ward, against its walls, the hate, the
vanished love of brothers for their other
selves, the grumbling venom of ambition,
lust and greed, the sleeping innocence of sex,
tumble out like swallows in the cooling blue-touched air
And far above, and all in ignorance of this
fine web of so much going on, a Boeing
rules a line across the space beyond,
takes west its own intriguers, courtiers,
lovers who have barely met, and men whose
words are destined to achieve their ends,
and then to vanish in the setting sun.

June 1995