Playwright, what is it that draws us close—
When the world seems at loggerheads?

In a willow-laden detour to Créteil,
A blithe Thursday pause from Parisian stress,

You lure the inspiriting swans to your side
With fillips of fresh bread,

But the Garbo-shy heron refuses
To stir or alight on the center stage.

It is not unlike the past, the myriad
Plots and characters cached within us—


Île des Ravageurs, Île Sainte-Catherine, Île Brise-Pain,
The names of the Lilliputian islands

(Linked by appealing footbridges)
A genial bracelet or a bagatelle’s

Initial notes. Along the tranquil Marne,
We launch into your brand-new play,

With a duo of intent anglers
As desultory bystanders,

And a stealthy, beaver-like creature
The French call a copyu

As a hirsute witness.
You relish the role of a callous,

Up-and-coming businessman, 
And straightaway, I shape-shift

Into an “eyesore,” a homeless,
Tatterdemalion crone

Loitering in a London Tube station,
Antsy to present a scathing mirror

To the posh Bond Street princeling’s
Blistering selfishness—


This riverine role-playing implies
Our easy theatrical rapport

Is surely bolder, more fathomless,
Than our Puck-giddy or pensive,

Slowpoke or brisk daylight masks—
As fallible dreamers, co-stars,

We’re not immune to
Ad libs and nighttime shadows:

In shattering dreams, alarums,
You’re the little Shoah girl

Whose hiding-place cough and sniffle
Ensnares her whole hounded family;                      

You’re the doomed, headstrong queen’s
Miscarried son, the longed-for dauphin

Whose death-in-the-womb unravels
The irascible monarch’s ambitions—


What does the here-and-now Marne whisper—
With its Maytime retinue

Of gumshoe-inquisitive swans,
Its foraging tenant heron?

On-the-rise dramatist, lush-haired
Phoenix among pendant willows

And resilient water lilies,
Deep green prosceniums, 

You possess the art, the wherewithal,
The inner treasure house to fashion

New worlds, to annul
Disastrous history—

Be with me in this life.
Be brave against the ruinous.

Be born.


Cyrus Cassells is the 2021 Poet Laureate of Texas. His most recent book, The World That the Shooter Left Us, was published in 2022, and his ninth book, Is There Room for Another Horse on Your Horse Ranch?, a finalist for the National Poetry Series, will be published by Four Way Books in March 2024. Among his honors: a Guggenheim fellowship, the 1981 National Poetry Series, a Lambda Literary Award, a Lannan Literary Award, two NEA grants, a Pushcart Prize, and the William Carlos Williams Award. His 2018 volume, The Gospel according to Wild Indigo, was a finalist for the NAACP Image Award. Still Life with Children: Selected Poems of Francesc Parcerisas, translated from the Catalan, was awarded the Texas Institute of Letters’ Soeurette Diehl Fraser Award for Best Translated Book of 2018 and 2019. His second volume of Catalan translations, To The Cypress Again and Again: Tribute to Salvador Espriu, was published in March 2023. He was nominated for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Criticism for his cultural reviews in The Washington Spectator. He teaches in the MFA program at Texas State University and received the 2021 Presidential Award for Scholarly/Creative Activities, one the university’s highest honors.

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