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Do my fingerprints still linger
in the acting recesses and forgotten pockets
of the places I touched with words?
If you go to Stratford and see the pubs
and walking tours and monuments
to the idea of me, you’ll find I am not there.
I’m not in the foundations of the house
that birthed me, the ruins of its hips
sunk into the grass for all to stare at,
nor in the faithful Globe Theatre,
a product of your need for material ghosts
who can mouth my best words
without melting into solid boards.
And as for the critics who try
to breathe on my bones, dressing me
in half a dozen alleged facts or hedged bets
and matching me like a criminal
to my portrait, they should know that I never
inhabited that portrait, any more
than my mind was confined to that house.
So to all those who would take me
and shrink me to a life, I say this:
measure me by the space
inside my words, not my tiny face.