Poetry Drawer: To Be or Not to Be by Robert Beveridge

And it’s always been so simple, hasn’t it?

The poets
stifled by their governments
their countries
some of them scream
and whine
and cry
that they are being
shut up!

You have governments
that notice you
enough to stifle
your pitiful syllables—

look at Artaud
locked up and starved
for nine years
Artaud who was crazy
and locked up
and still wrote
the burning lines of France

look at Holan
crushed for fifteen years
under socialist censorship
all the time he wrote
all-night dialogues
with a paedophilic Hamlet
with Orpheus
and Eurydice
all he did
for fifteen years
was write
write lines stifled
by silly socialists
and Holan never whined once!

Writing bedridden
Holan’s hand
guided by Hamlet
and Orpheus
wine and music
something rotten
in the state of Czechoslovakia
repressed and asexual
yearning for a Eurydice
not in Hell
but maybe in Philadelphia

they took Shakespeare
by the tongue
and pulled him inside out
stretching glands and breaking bones
the bard’s words warped
and torn

leatherbound volumes
given to friends
and never seeing
the light of day
of A Night with Hamlet

To be
or not to be?
And it’s always been so simple, hasn’t it?

Cleaving together
to be a writer
repressed by the government
not to be a writer
not to be a poet
in the eyes of your peers
an underground poet
in the truest sense
a poet
a poet!

Shun everything and write for fifteen years.

Take a pension
form the government
which represses you

twist all those fainting words
from seventeenth century
musical fools
and publish again
publish again
when the government sets you free

look the fire of Hamlet
straight in his one yellow eye
and burn
cut your arms
and bleed
play your lyre
and sing

rescue with your blood and fire and voice
your tarnished Eurydice
from the hell of Philadelphia
let your voice
spit blood
spew sweat
sing poetry
scream every syllable
of Beowulf
or A Night
with Hamlet,
till some underworld Pluto
takes pity on your plight,
releases your muse
from the burning brimstone
of Center City buildings,
take her away
and don’t look back,

maybe you’ll lose your muse
baby, but you never know—

let her follow you
to South Street,
meet your one-eyed Hamlet
on a street corner
then maybe,
just maybe,
your Eurydice
will catch up with you

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