"Unthought"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Nov. 30 2004 12:05 PM

"Unthought"

Listen to Jill Rosser reading this poem. Every time I am reminded of the actor who willed his own skull to repertory for use as that of poor Yorick in stagings of Hamlet, I wince to think I forgot his name. Was it Cooke? Cronin? Cracken?                            Cooke I decide, and doubt sets in. So the thought I always nearly have about this morbid legacy never fully shapes itself. I've almost had this thought at least a hundred times. For some reason until I get that name right I can't permit myself to think it through. Maddening, like a sneeze that won't quite, all day it just, climax unbrought-to … Sir Arthur Cronin seems plausible until I suspect I've conflated the actor with Conan Doyle, who liked to solve hard cases of lives dissolved. Absurd, this paralyzing sense of obligation to a name. Alas poor whoosis, who'd have given rise to some thought in my still humming skull, my wracked skull rich with the image of his, held aloft nightly to shadow forth past performances, like the echo of a hermit-crab-deserted shell. Is it still in use? No prop man could throw it away. Did he love puns? Was he the boneheaded sort who felt Ophelia must be played by a man because she would have been in Shakespeare's day? Did he upstage a friend? Was he gifted enough to? Sir Something. Arthur, George? Frederick. It's killing me, since his whole idea was to be remembered—literally—letting his too solid skull stand for his love of the curtain-hush, the lights, the flourish of lines and crushed velvet and the gasp just audible in the front row, to be a part of it, a body part of it. The thought I want to have undoes itself again. You go ahead and think it for me. I guess I never wanted it. I think that may be why I had to tell you. Here, take this from me. You'll think of something. Please. This is as far as I go.

J. Allyn Rosser teaches at Ohio University and is the author of Foiled Again. She teaches at Ohio University, where she edits New Ohio Review.

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