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Posts Tagged ‘Holding Ground’

The force of her own gift alone drove her to it…

who shall measure the heat and violence of the poet’s

heart when caught and tangled in a woman’s body?

—Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

 

My brother was a talented man.  38 plays, 154 sonnets,

4 long narrative poems and a threnody on the death of

chaste lovers, all with a little Latin and less Greek—well.

A genius in his own time, surely.

But his appetite burned a hole in our family’s pockets, he

wouldn’t sew gloves, wouldn’t apprentice to the new

bailiff, just scribbled, then was gone to London.  We

weren’t foolish—there was nowhere else for him, and

nothing for it but to follow.

Will made enough in London to carouse, but sent no

coin home.  Our father snored beneath the alehouse

table, too drunk to oppose what Ann and I concocted by

the fire one cold night, the children hungry in their

beds.  I, being more than common tall, attired myself on

all points as a man and set out.  I crossed Clopton Bridge

on a cold St. George’s Day, my brother’s 25th feast-day.  I

found him face down, feasting on a puddle of his own

spew, nothing new in that.

No longer a woman, I didn’t clean and coddle him, but

booted his backside like the dog he was and swore on

his children’s eyes that he’d send money home if I had to

sell his body as a rent boy.  I locked him in his shabby

rooms, kept the key in my fist, and he wrote three plays

a year.  Some were good.  People started to notice.  An Earl

commissioned some sonnets, offered gold for my dark

hair sketched into my brother’s verse.  Money was

money.  My namesake niece in Stratford grew tall enough

to preen and call herself Judith.

My brother was a talented man.  But for me, who never

again wore a dress, who played manager for twenty

years, his greatest feat lay in how he turned our family

fortunes, our green and yellow melancholy, into the

great Globe itself.  A person, to write, needs a room of

one’s own.  A door that locks.  Someone to hold the key.

“Shakespeare’s Sister”

from Holding Ground

by Tanis MacDonald

with permission

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