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And it Shall be Written in Eight and Six: A Midsummer Night’s Dream PHILIP HARVEY


Literally this is what’s going on as we speak.
Mechanicals have answered their mobiles.
They are working on the props between smokos.
Fairies consort with some fairly ordinary royals.
Whatever’s in that drink it’s messing with their minds.
We don’t mind if we do, say they. They’re on.
Like, literally, how can something so wrong
Feel so right and why does everyone around
Laugh at the wrong moments? That should be so right.
Literally it’s already later as we speak these words.
The plot’s forgot, the director’s gone home.
They dream through habitations all their own.
Literally, who has space for this emotion
That is so much yes, only to turn out no?


That so much yes yes only turns out no
Texts forwards days, near-tears, mostly truth;
Whether another, and will anything soothe,
Or stop time? Is this the end, or the go?
What do you see in them? ask the prolix.
Refer to your blameless past and your blog.
Yes “well, we will have such a prologue
And it shall be written in eight and six”
Where dream is clue and reality’s what’s-on;
Choice makes us fools despite rational powers;
Where the course of true love is the main meal.
Then, for respite from all this want and feel 
Attend how your friends play their parts two hours,
As Francis Flute and Robin Starveling and Nick Bottom.


When Brian Eno and Roger Eno and Daniel Lanois
Musicians on a quest for touch
Trialled the sounds that became Apollo,
Chambers had landed on that thumped surface
And moonwalking was done if you were suitable.
“Two hard things: to bring the moonlight into a chamber.”
Their sounds are a drift over close-up craters,
Romance and realism exchanging experiences,
Bottoming where the sun don’t shine.
It is but a dream yet for most of us,
Moon the size of our thumbnail.
On our acoustic planet music’s a consolation:
We fill our spaces with its rare breathers
From the stone hard facts that would grind us down.


The owned shared names that bind us and settle
Make London Athens for an hour or three.
Each field, forest, stream, street, home memory
Whether tempest landscape, or hand with a petal.
Names half-remembered moonee in the ponds,
Queenscliffe by riptide and corangamite
Inhabit us who inhabit their well worn sites
Through the breathing space that is our bond.
Let’s break from the caught world a day or three
To rehearse lines in secret, a brand new play
By the esteemed if shaky changer of names!
Let’s fool with the form of things and play games
With how love has worked since veriest day
When happily ownsomes birthed stagg’ringly free!


“What hempen home-spuns have we swaggering here,”
In Indian cheesecloth thigh-length shirts,
White wide flares, corduroys, straight legs ripped,
Denim dark-blue tucked at the ankle
Trimmed with tartan or spattered in lime,
Ballooning lapels with open stitch hems,
Clogs, gymboots, RMs, punk and platform?
Or these, in lace maxis, swathes and plunges,
Patterned with dreamscapes or Miller check,
Pastel jumpsuits, Fair Isle, feral boho chic,
Silk bow blouses, pocket vests and batik,
Tie-up sandals, knee-high boots and uggs?
Once were Seventies closer now to seventy,
Bangled, necklaced, tasselled and ear-ringed
Dancing to Fleetwood Mac down on the beach.


Now he fleetly backs down on the bait.
Now she sweetly upbraids him of her fate.
Now he speechifies his love’s undying.
Now she monologues on where he’s lying.
Now he wonders why it’s this way then that.
Now she starts me-owing instead to her cat.
Now he pleads wit beauty status as prized.
Now she reads his claims as quaintly misprised.
Now we all agog in the furnished stalls
How we ask, why such impetuous squalls:
How they’re all over each other like a rash,
Wow crash next minute the whole thing’s a hash.
Now we check the program the word Misprision.
Now dawning we mouth their right to revision.


Now tawny frogmouth glooms its night refrain
And owl its one hoot like a distant train.
The neighbour’s dog stops shouting at its ghost
And ants through cicada shells about are, most.
Possums click roofing to scuttle in gutters,
Hightail boughs outside deadset shutters.
While that rustle of metal and garden shed locks
Might or might not be a visiting fox.
Each interrupts inhabits my dream so slight
Alike as our tiny tiger April might
Snoring light in the doona of the night.
Likewise hunting early outside unbidden
Goes our proto-panther Obsidian
As the world turns slowly again viridian.


As the world turns slowly again viridian
His realm divides between English and Latin.
Decide which deicide keeps the medium,
Stave off lunacy depicting the patterns.
Country is fresh this day yet town is thronged
With his voice varieties, heard undercover.
Comedy like tragedy is by everyone tongued.
Soul transforms in company of a lover.
Sphery, thrumming, waxen, plain-song, cuckoo,
His words catch and flame on the burning deck.
“It is not enough to speak, but to speak true,”
His creed, his everyday reality check.
He is catholic to a fault, perhaps.
He is fissile and a pratfall chap.


There was a fossil with a baseball cap
Let them drown at sea, killed them in exile,
Looked the other way when war was declared,
Left them homeless in the streets of his town.
Reproved young children beseeching a future,
Sold the earth to spite clear sky with lead,
Looked the other way while coral bleached,
Added up his profit, secure and unlosable.
“With pomp, with triumph and with reveling”
The fossil celebrated his short miracle,
A chance to prolong all he did before
Who wooed them, wowed and won them with fear,
Doing them injuries as yet unseen,
An average threat to the yet unborn.


An American academic resident in Mel-born
Argued the plays were for reading not acting.
He sounded convincing, he sounded convinced
That Harvard expatriate in Melbn.
He strutted his stuff an hour or two in seminar
Then was heard no more.
The play within the play must be seen
To be believed. It does not live on theory alone,
But is like the words it comprises
Plays within plays needing present laughter,
A common audience of acquired idioms,
Those with an eye and ear and nose
For the comic possibilities of an armchair thespian
On a one-way return flight to LAX.


“I go frequent flyer just to relax,”
Says the woman Theseus, “with your tax.”
Says the manly Queen of the Amazons
“Now I’m with him. I hang with paragons.”
Swoons that actor the lady Demetrius
“That voice in the air is the sweetliest
That pertains to the man dressed Hermia,
Or maybe it’s Helena, as things transpire.”
Puck, the Indian Girl, quick and ageless,
Tricks the best, worst, and all into Dumpt Humph
Be he lion or ass, lioness or less, a fright!
Writes the critic Cobweb of the first night:
“Lines delivered with verve. Casting a triumph.
The playwright speaks for all. Music, gorgeous.”


Warm-blooded breast, face of roseate delight,
Child, confirm here is home free of strife.
“When thou wakest, it is thy dear,” and life
Lifetime of your flesh attuned to the light.
Drink the cool water to cool your body,
The red wine to warm you against the cold.
Ply the air with earthy words and bold,
Your words, fed by care thrilling and moody.
The past is dead blues, ancestors provoked,
And blue the fairy realm, ideas and dreams;
Hurt that means no harm; heal that cannot be bought.
Glassy you stare through sea-thought and sky-thought
Grown-ups scatter wildly, their faults and schemes,
Constructions charmed glaziers with skill evoke.


Centuries of glacier withdraw in weeks.
Oceans of storm drown each known continent.
Forests fall, islands vanish, all such incidents
Ascribed by science as the science science speaks.
“And thorough this distemperature we see
The seasons alter.” Autumn blends summer,
Fish dies heatstruck in rivers’ simmer,
Bee sucks air, bird tremors, leaf curls on tree.
Every people wanting what other people store
Own that in turn which consumes and burns,
Fuming and heating as breath strives to breathe
Till the whole world for jealous wanting seethes.
Souls solitary stare on greed and would unlearn
Whoever laboured, but to find this heretofore.


Who never laboured in my mind before
Could empty every colour of nature
Onstage, then install political mirrors.
I could enact what’s hid behind the door.
I could skite with ribaldry, overreach,
Shorten or lengthen, more some or less some,
Out-illusion their illusions in a lesson.
I could part night from day in stand-up speech.
I could be all desire, or its opposite,
Start on odd bod shapes to end with a heart;
Live out changes as ass, lion, or fairy,
Leave them breathless when I take the ferry.
“I could play Ercles rarely, or a part
To tear a cat in, to make all split.”


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