A Shuffle in the Woods

Idris Anderson

When we have shuffled off this mortall coyle.

                                                 Hamlet 3.1.67

Not so easy as you say. Choosing the time,
before it’s too late, even if you’re no coward.
Compos mentis essential. We have heard the chimes
at midnight, mother. The bell beating one.
Shuffle in the tower. Ghost at the doorstep
whispering. Come. Go. Which is it?Go, go, go, my mother chanted in half-light,
my fingers pressing the dropper’s bulb.
Morphine, you, you faulty elixir. Drowning
in her lungs, slowly, nauseous, too awake,
breathless except her exhalations: Go. Go. Go.
Her persistent insistence. I listenedlate night into morning, I went shuffling
to the next room, fell into a darkness, woke
to her coughless coughing. An airless tomb.
A coil of phlegm around her throat, a coil
of breath strangling her. That murderer.
Days later, desperate to live—blessed the hourshe died—not a feather moving. In the bathroom
mirror, I saw only myself: wise, romantic,
vainly thinking Severn, Keats, absorbed
by my own clear image. What would I do
that I had not done for her? Consider
not too carefully, yield like a swan to itsinging as I eat the potion. This is my body.
What is to be? Forget why and wherefore.
A maze, a moonlit path, a wolf, no crumbs.
How at last to sit, lean, lie down as if to sleep.
Could I risk looking at the trees?
Readiness is not all. A shuffle in the woods.

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Idris Anderson’s second collection of poems, Doubtful Harbor, was selected by Sherod Santos for the Hollis Summers Prize of Ohio University Press and was published in 2018. Her first collection, Mrs. Ramsay’s Knee, was selected by Harold Bloom for the May Swenson Poetry Award and published by Utah State University Press. She has held a number of grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities to study lyric poetry with Helen Vendler at Harvard, Greek tragedy at Stanford, and Virginia Woolf in London.

Michigan Quarterly Review

Fall 2018

Ann Arbor, Michigan

University of Michigan

Khaled Mattawa

Poetry Editor
Katie Willingham

Managing Editor
H.R. Webster

Michigan Quarterly Review is an eclectic interdisciplinary journal of arts and culture that seeks to combine the best of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction with outstanding critical essays on literary, cultural, social, and political matters. The flagship journal of the University of Michigan, MQR draws on lively minds here and elsewhere, seeking to present accessible work of all varieties for sophisticated readers from within and without the academy.

In addition to choice creative work, we publish special issues dedicated to timely themes, such as Vietnam: Beyond the Frame and Bookishness: The New Fate of Reading in the Digital Age, and special clusters of essays on individual topics, like Motown, Politics and Detroit, or the Age of Obama. MQR has published work by Margaret Atwood, Juan Cole, Robert Coles, Carol Gilligan, Maxine Hong Kingston, Alan Liu, Barry Lopez, Czeslaw Milosz, Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates, Richard Rorty, Eric J. Sundquist, John Updike, William Julius Wilson, and other authorities in their fields.

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