Postlude: Consummation

Roy Herndon Smith

Olivia [to Viola]
I would you were as I would have you be!
–Shakespeare, Twefth Night Act 3, Scene 1

SCENE. A Room in Olivia’s house.


Viola: Why must I ever be the thrusting “man,” wild,
uninvited, in this wordy conjoining?
Olivia: Not undesired, once heard, I . . . You are . . . O love,
truly to know you, just one time, in the flesh.
Viola: What’s the sense in a fleshy consummation?
Do I not stand before you, an unveiled nude?

Olivia: Seen and heard, not touched or touching, you drag “nude,”
like holy lace, chaste . . . O, sister, I am wild . . .
Viola: But still, dear she, self-wounding consummation?
Dare I mend you? But to lose this conjoining . . .
Olivia: This wordy unveiling’s false; it conceals flesh . . .
O, just once to lose words, to find flesh in love.

Viola: What? “False?” Do we not, through these words, truly love,
now and every day? Do you not love this “nude”?
Olivia: O yes! And yes! But to conjugate in flesh,
banish speech between us and we would be wild.
Viola: Banish it and risk losing all conjoining.
Husbands possess wives’ bodies’ consummation.

Olivia: O, to become each other’s consummation,
the grammar of flesh’s coupling, coming love.
Viola: Each moment with you is carnal conjoining.
The empty air stinks; these words are wholly nude.
Olivia: Love, we would raise the incarnate God with wild
speaking speechless speech in senseless sensing flesh.

Viola: Hold with me, dear she, hold, still clamorous flesh,
hear, feel, words make sensuous consummation.
Olivia: Your words do not still; they lick ears, body, wild
for tongue to follow, just this once, words in love.
Viola: Then “just once, once more,” then “once more,” until nude
bodies devour forever words’ conjoining.

Olivia: O most wonderful eternal conjoining,
wordless transubstantiation, flesh to flesh.
Viola: If, finding us in this wordless, senseless, nude . . .
our men forbade us wordy consummation . . .
Olivia: I would not be. I would die. O, wordy love,
now I hear your words, although they drive me wild.

Viola: In words, all conjoining is consummation,
Olivia: absent flesh cleaving to absent flesh in love.
Viola: When men, by division, rule, nude words run wild.