You tell me that your hand shakes as it writes.
From where I sit, on the other side of the screen,
I cannot tell the torment of your private hell.
All I know is the black letters against white background
reveal the same poet I knew a few years ago.
I tell this tale, I think it true,
on the chance it may resonate with you.
Ben Jonson at about your age, 60 or so,
got the palsy too.
A well-wisher gave him a fox to pet,
this being a remedy then approved for shaking hands.
Fox and poet argued in a dream and the fox,
exhausted or exasperated at Jonson’s wordy intransigence,
told him to look in his cellar.
There Ben found moles had eaten away at his house,
as wants then undermined his life.
He told all this to a former patron,
the Lord Warden of Sherwood Forest,
who gave Jonson what he lacked.
The poet wrote on, and found his way back.
If poets be as boughs on which
words like leaves are hung,
grey, stiff and bare when old,
supple and full when young,
remember: Green wood brings smoke, brittle makes fire.