15 February 2012

Properties (A Poem for Henslowe)



  Note: Philip Henslowe (1556-1616) was an Elizabethan-era producer, entrepreneur and general theater maven, who is known to most of us through his diaries, and through Geoffrey Rush's portrayal of him in the film "Shakespeare In Love." 
  Recently, while reading a history of Elizabethan theater, I came upon his list of props ( or "properties) for the Globe Theater, around 1600. The list [see below] is, I think, a wonderful piece of "found" poetry, with its brevity, rhythm, and  tossing-about of names of normally "sacred" objects, in the most delightfully casual way.  -What follows that is a little riff from 2012 NYC. Enjoy. PL/NYC

Henslowe's List 


“One rock, one cage, one Hell Mouth.
One tomb of Guido. One tomb of Dido.
One bedspread.
One wooden hatchet; one leather hatchet, one Iris head,
One rainbow.
One little altar and one target.
Some evil foils. Three tumbrels. One dragon for “Faust”.
One Pope’s miter. One imperial crown.
One plain crown.”

   -  Henslowe, 1600


Property (in memory of Henslowe)             PL 2012

One New York apartment: Cage.
Hell Mouth. Tomb, and bedspread: all.
Tomb (for lighting), HellMouth (radiators);
And you should see the carpet in the hall.

One hatchet for my neighbor, who plays jazz;
One rainbow for gay neighbors, Hal and Chaz.

Upstairs. Iris, model: gives 
what little head she has.
She seethes and hisses. Off and on. 
Just like the radiator.

I hear her when at night to bed I crawl.
My bed’s the altar/target . This bed’s Faust.
It gives and takes, it bargains me for all.
My cat is Goethe, and the Devil’s mouse’d.

I’m trying to trade this tumbrel for a crown.
Like all of us, I give up now for later.
A backwards glance at thrones, and all fall down.
Down into Hell Mouth, cage and radiator.

The stagehands strike the props. They walk away.
It’s: just another script. Another play.


peri lyons 2/2012
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