Offcourse Literary Journal

Three Poems, by Michelle Cameron.

My Father, Dreamer, Builder.

When he wanted to hurt me,
Father would call me accident child,
the one unwanted,
the one who came too late,
the one who killed her mother.

There were nights —
a few at least —
when he'd hold us, all three,
my brothers, Cuthbert, Richard,
together with me, tiny Mary,
and talk of his travels:
how he'd sleep
in poor taverns,
knife under his pillow
or in a hayfield
under the bowl
of spilled stars,
actors playing innyards
and town squares,
payment scant,
supper a few potatoes,
a cup of sack.
He'd tell us of the great theatres
of Athens, Rome, Byzantium,
how the mighty would sit
under a blue Mediterranean sky,
pay in antique coin
chiseled with profiles of Emperors,
how the ancients
would play the lost tragedies,
booming voices echoing off
chalky foothills.
Someday, he vowed to us —
we three rapt in the warmth
of his voice, his attention —
someday, London, too,
would have a Theatre of its own
and he would build it.

my baby days:
all hammer song
and walking shod —
too easy to stumble
over splintering beams,
trip on mislaid tools,
and yet, there was magic:
shells of buildings
rising, shaped
by my father's hand,
his voice throaty, deep,
drama in his movement,
in his commands, his excuses,
a man too used
to woo audiences
to love easily,
every inch of him
built for applause.

Under Father's splintering eye
I learned to move, fast, fast,
bring what was wanted,
be quiet, watchful,
wait for love.


My Husband

The garden bloomed on your birthday,
April twenty-third,
and Judith gathered up
the dancing buds and laughed.

With the spring, there are renewed fears,
here, of plague — we keep isolated,
hope to pray ourselves safe.

(Oh, William, can you not write
us more? Must all your words
live and die onstage?)

I planted a new sapling
in the corner near the spruce —
where Hamnet used to play.

When the wind blows,
I imagine him in the boughs
laughing down at me.

The money you sent, my dear,
was more than enough
for this fair weather season —

I bought Susanna cloth for a dress,
and your father fashioned Judith
a new set of Sunday gloves —

they're growing so, like the honeysuckle
that climbs the side of the dovecot,

(Oh, William, if they close the Globe
for plague, will you summer at home?
You'd please us, my dear, to spend
a little time with we who miss you so.

I promise we will let you write.)



Orange Girl


i. Orange Girl at Cheapside Market ii. Orange Girl at the Globe Theatre
She holds an orange, She moves through crowds,
sniffs the flowers of Seville, smiling, waving,

the heavy, lacy odor —

selling oranges,
she's never tasted one. watching the stage
She hands over hoarded coins, from one corner of her eye
clammy from being held she wants the part of Juliet
against narrow, oh Romeo Romeo
not-yet-budding breasts. she cries, silent,
Seville! Even the name smells ripe, her mouth an o of orbed fruit,
sunny, unlike the gutters her globed wordlessness
of Cheapside! timed precisely
Once, someone showed her with the call of the boy
a black lace mantilla, draped in lacy garb
said Spanish ladies (she's seen the play three times this month)
are spiders, oh to be in Mantua or Venice or Seville
weaving, weaving. and not here tromping through mud,
  faint aroma of unpeeled orange
  rising off her fingers,
  lines beating, unheard,
  from an untasted golden core.


Michelle Cameron's work has appeared in The Paterson Literary Review, Ink Pot, Literary Potpouri, Lilith, Lips, Samsara Quarterly, 2River View, and many others. Her new book, In the Shadow of the Globe, reviewed in this issue of Offcourse by Janet Buck, was named the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey's Winter Book Selection. Michelle lives in New Jersey with her husband and two sons.

Michelle Cameron's web site:


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