THE BOOK OF SHAKESPEARE
Traffic stretches and contracts at red and green,
late summer burns an epilogue on sandstone
and macadam as I cross. It's Shakespeare's birthday,
the State Library will exhibit its First Folio.
Tall stories of antipodean glass
send courtiers in skirts and slacks and open-necks
bundling into nuanced cool, where suits and ties
have-at them with swordplay glances. Every face
becomes an arras, hiding an agenda.
The atmosphere approaching Shakespeare's Room
is reverential, almost mystical,
among this fist of worshippers - the word
made flesh and bone on stage, the lie made real
and bloody. We feel the lineage, we sense
the tug of tall ships through this secular
and sacred book back to primal anchorage,
the forms and words now wired in the fencelines
and postholes of our thought. Foul play, high time,
fancy free, stone cold, new-fangled, lie low,
in stitches, up in arms, and hundreds more.
A mall of archetypes and architectures
offers Desdemona's bedroom, Julie's balcony,
Harry's Harfleur and Macbeth's witchy heath.
I ask the young librarian, with surgical gloves
handling the linen-based pages, to find me Hamlet.
No page numbers, she checks the list of tragedies,
two openings and closings, and Hamlet is
telling the Players to speak trippingly;
I ask her, Turn back one page, and there it is,
To be or not to be, the words tattooed
on today's forearm, printed back four hundred years
and very near the author's hand, a hand
already dead, but still alive in Sydney.
I rearrange my mental furniture,
to find Macquaire Street aglow and rattling.
The ferry dips and skims its way to Manly,
where Arthur Phillip found the local people
impressive, with a well-developed culture,
as red-coat emissaries splashed ashore,
muskets loaded, Shakespeare in their shot.