Ann Struthers

Lightening on Lake Geneva

The Shelleys and Lord Byron

Lightening flashes between mountain peaks,
strikes the water, "How the lit lake shines, a phosphoric sea."
Thunder speaks with satanic voices,
waves beat the shore, white foam blooms like sea weed
coughed up from monsters Byron brought from Albania.
Claire Clairmont, who is daring enough
to be handmaiden to Lucifer, tells Byron,
she's sure the handmade boot
for his limping foot hides a cloven hoof.
Even Shelley's baby sleeps fitfully.
Violent winds blow out the candles,
whip the white curtains.

Who is completely sane on those nights?
Not conniving Claire, or wealthy, titled Byron,
or handsome, amorous Shelley, but Mary, who finds
Frankenstein and sutures him together.
Or maybe she is maddest of all.


Calm Days, Calm Nights

Lake Geneva, 1816

Dr. Polidori, one of Byron's hangers-on,
is crazy for Mary Godwin,
leaps eight feet from the balcony
to the walkway where she stands—
Mary ignores him
and his sprained ankle while Byron laughs.

By daylight the Shelleys, crazy Claire,
sardonic Byron and entourage sail Lake Geneva.
On calm evenings they walk to the taverns
where the vine-dressers, all women,
sing their ribald songs.
drink last year's dark vintage.
They are not the same people of the wild nights.