Shakespeare’s Words

The Bard (detail) by Kate Murray
The Bard (detail) by Kate Murray

Do my fingerprints still linger

in the acting recesses and forgotten pockets

of the places I touched with words?

If you go to Stratford and see the pubs

and walking tours and monuments

to the idea of me, you’ll find I am not there.

I’m not in the foundations of the house

that birthed me, the ruins of its hips

sunk into the grass for all to stare at,

nor in the faithful Globe Theatre,

a product of your need for material ghosts

who can mouth my best words

without melting into solid boards.

And as for the critics who try

to breathe on my bones, dressing me

in half a dozen alleged facts or hedged bets

and matching me like a criminal

to my portrait, they should know that I never

inhabited that portrait, any more

than my mind was confined to that house.

So to all those who would take me

and shrink me to a life, I say this:

measure me by the space

inside my words, not my tiny face.