151.1: Bill Rector:: Macbeth & Lady Macbeth & Desdemona & Richard III 151

While a quartet of sonnets in the dramatic monologues of various Shakespearean characters might seem like a very traditional feature to come across in contemporary poetry, Bill Rector’s poems this week are fragmentary, strange, and wildly inventive. “Lady Macbeth” comes to us in a short, piecemeal declaration that its speaker constructs to convince the weird ladies to give her an old, sad banana. We don’t see the grand enabler of Macbeth step into her sinister and memorable role of the play. Instead, Rector’s speaker shows us how her necessities of motherhood depend upon the ability to bargain for and ingest rot. Similarly, the beautiful Desdemona from Othello is not the blameless victim (you’ll notice I depart here from Auden’s interpretation of her) of the Venetian tragedy; rather, here she becomes a co-conspirator and gives her husband instruction of his own undoing:

      Good Sir, it’s midnight.
      Do you know where your moles are?
      Did they slide between the sheets? Between us?

The sonnet acknowledges its subject matter, but through lineation and enjambment, Rector’s poems surprise in terms of treatment of subject matter and the sentiments of the speakers. Could one ever imagine Richard III saying: “Don’t tell me you don’t see that wall. / For God’s sake, don’t give me that.”? It isn’t the simple task of assigning contemporary voices to Renaissance characters. Instead, the voices seem carefully and artfully imagined, as if Rector found his speakers in a quaint tavern and started asking questions: “Ok, Macbeth, what do you really sound like?” Cody Todd


Startled the living
Daylights out of me, they did,
Those bulldozers at the forest’s edge,
Blades down like the fallen
Chins of men heavily sleeping,
Snoring, but ready to wake
With a sooty hack and roar,
Shaking me in my rooted stance,
Big men, sod-dewed, root-bearded men,
Men with a heavy tread,
Men that come and do what they have to do
No matter what it means to you.
Men who bite off more than they can chew,
Then chew it.

Lady Macbeth

Yes, I would like that banana.
Yes, I see it is the last one.
Are you saving it for someone?
Or are you going to toss it
In the kettle with everything else?
You know what happens to bananas.
See, that one’s already black.
Soon, it will be mushy
And of little use to anyone.
No, I would not like to be thought greedy.
Yes, I know I have no more claim
To the banana than the next person.
But, weird ladies, I am pregnant,
And that banana is what I desire to eat.


Good Sir, it’s midnight.
Do you know where your moles are?
Did they slide between the sheets? Between us?
Or, leery Moor, did they slink from the shadow
Of your arm to darken the hollows
Of my drowsing face? (Don’t kid yourself.
I’m not asleep. I have never been.)
Have they been spotted by your scars, slashes
As pale as faces cracking a door?
Are they watching Letterman, too?
Or have they run off with some lifted brow?
The rumor in a idle stare?
Do they know that when they return
They’ll not find us here?

Richard III

Don’t tell me you don’t see the wall.
For God’s sake, don’t give me that.
How do you think the red gate
Manages to hang as it does,
Banging open and shut
On one hinge all day, every day?
What keeps the leaky roof
From crashing down
Upon your back?
What keeps the horizon at bay?
Holds out out and in in? I to I? Am to am?
What’s as long as you remember?
As far as you know?
Don’t tell me you don’t remember the quarry.