Oliver Rice



It is the sum of their moments,

the selves,

their lighter, darker vocations,

their maps of the markers and boundaries,


their dialects of the communal rote,


the selves,

eyewitnesses to the money,

the greys, greens, browns,

the populations of the trees,

the messages left by the dead,


the speculations drifting from their alleys,

from their ironies,

the languages of their garments,


the selves,

captives of chance and impetuous time,


their eras contending,


the selves,

felony lurking in their laughter.





On Saturday afternoon, late, after the game,


their caregivers at home, keeping the normalities,


she and Wayne sit alone at the top of the bleachers


What is the difference, they ask,


their mentors pondering the time being,


between an era and an age?

Is this a question for history or anthropology?

Or sociology?


It is too obvious, of course, they say,


their peer groups yearning, maturating,


to propose that we are in an age of technology.

And it is inaccurate to refer to an age of Freud

or of Christianity, for instance,

since they have currency only in the western sphere

and may be dwindling in acceptance.

We might appropriately term them merely eras.


Classicism, they declare, is an age,


their kinfolk puttering, lolling, dithering,


romanticism was an era,

cubism a fad.

Tasting rutabaga would be a whim.


An era starts with a Mendel,

a Gutenberg, a Philosophe,

an Alexander Graham Bell.


Imagine Capitol Square at this moment, they exclaim,


their milieu grudgingly administering to itself,

their mores uncertain of its motives,


with all these ages, eras, fads, whims

in process at once,

some in absurd conflict.





We are reasonably confident that Shakespeare

was born in Henley Street.

That occasionally comforting shadows, odors,

auras recurred in his earliest awareness.

That various Freudian phenomena were at work.

That other infants in the neighborhood

suggestively resembled a newborn Sophocles

or a puling George Bernard Shaw.




Whatever they said to his childhood,

there to the south were the farmlands,

where some of his kin remained,

to the north was the Forest of Arden,

where more relatives lived in the villages.

The Avon flowed forever by.

Every day his father went with the ruling elite,

the spiders made their webs in the hedges,

a clamor came from the smithy,

the slaughterhouse, the market stalls.

He was an eyewitness to wrath, spite, gluttony,

overheard rumors about the queen,

went to grammar school,

received impressions of the elms,

the fine stones of Clopton Bridge,

the privacies of the houses

absorbing the available spectacle,

not unlike, perhaps, a youngling Plautus

or an incipient James Barrie.




Now he began, at the age of fourteen,

his shadowy, probably wayward,

possibly delinquent, possibly canny years —

fourteen more, to be precise.

The evidence is sparse and conflicting.

His father’s financial and political fortunes,

seldom stable, went into severe decline.

William left school, never to return,

took up various menial occupations,

as the legendry goes.

Married at eighteen,

soon christened three children.

Then virtually disappeared

until we find him, aged twenty eight,

appearing on a London stage,

having been in the city for a time

and/or touring with troupes of players.

The rest the world knows.




This might be an episode, we reflect,

out of Molière or Tom Stoppard.


But who would leave it at that?


Who would not go up to bucolic Stratford,

put on his Warwickshire dialect,

and stroll with him all over an adolescent night

to hear what was obscurely stirred

by his memories of Ovid, the mystery plays,

the balladeers at the September fair?

Of swallows whirling about the chimneys?

Of winter, a mulberry tree, government spies?


Who would not contrive a visit

with his mother, with Anne Hathaway?


Would not pursue him to perilous London,

to lowlife Shoreditch and a theater where,

multitudinous, his sensors alert to the business,

to the fellows Marlowe and Kyd,

to his alteregos and all human intent,

he is acquiring credentials?


Not buy him a meal,

roister with him and the stagehands,

to learn somewhat more of why

he would not write a Blithe Spirit,

a Look Back in Anger,

a Waiting for Godot?





his alterego


is intemperate





his occupation


legal scholarship

is to him insufficient





his musicality


is visceral







his piano


a baby grand

is black


elegantly rigid

on its three legs


complacently reminiscent

of the dulcimer

Bartolomeo Cristofori

Johann Sebastian Bach

Franz Liszt


utterly impassive

day or night


until palpated




his digital dexterity


is unexceptional

an impediment


his two leftmost fingers

adamantly inept





Here are some of their houses,

representative folks,

wearing the faces they use behind doors,


expendable, auxiliary persons

with deft hands, nonetheless,

and genes for public spiritedness.


Some of the unfit parents,

some of the pilferers,

the misanthropes, the pornographers


have been to college,

been to Viet Nam,

on jury duty, on the realty board.


Individuals with personality disorders

cross lives

with people of charismatic instability.


One of the habitual polluters,

with one of the commonest names,

has a bearing from a golden age.


Oliver Rice's poems have appeared widely in journals and anthologies in the United States, as well as Canada, Argentina, England, The Netherlands, Austria, Turkey, and India. An interview with Creekwalker was released by that zine in January 2010. His book of poems, On Consenting to be a Man, is offered by Cyberwit, in Allahabad, India, and is available on Amazon. His online chapbook, Afterthoughts, Siestas, will appear in Mudlark late this fall. 





Current Issue
Contributors' Notes

Email this poem Printer friendly page

A CLOSER LOOK: Eleanor Wilner

Liz Abrams-Morley reviews

Gabor Barabas

Alice Baumgartner

Bruce Bennett

Kristin Berkey-Abbott

Christie Bingham

Judith Bowles

Laura M. Dixon

Michael Fogarty

Martin Galvin

Rod Jellema

Ann Knox

Judy Kronenfeld

Heller Landecker

W.F. Lantry

Michael Lauchlan

Merrill Leffler

Miriam Levine

Lyn Lifshin

Helen Losse

David McAleavey

Kathleen M. McCann

Louis McKee

George Moore

Megan M. Muthupandiyan

Scott Owens

Beth Paulson

Patric Pepper

Roger Pfingston

Oliver Rice

Lisa Rosinsky

Laura Sobbott Ross

David Salner

J.D. Smith

Barry Spacks

George Stratigakis

Anne Harding Woodworth

Andrea Wyatt















Last Updated: Feb 22, 2020 - 12:30:13 PM

Copyright 2005 - 2020 Cook Communication.