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This report is taken from PN Review 217, Volume 40 Number 5, May - June 2014.

Meeting Iago on the Ground Vahni Capildeo
Small pieces of tarmac kept emerging or being surgically extracted from my head, two years after a speeding police car – blue light on, siren off – struck my twenty-­year-old self as she crossed the road to deliver an essay on The Taming of the Shrew (it was blood-stained when someone handed it in to my tutor for marking; he was a man with an uneasy relationship to bodily fluids). For once the use of the words ‘fragments’ or ‘shards’ might be justified. Yet though the police car incident put me back a year, it did not enter my personal mythology; only obliquely, my poetry. The witness statement ‘I saw a girl flying through the air’ became a bad family joke. What mattered was Shakespeare.

Shakespeare gave me reassurance in a moment of distress, in an unexpected fashion; sadly, nothing that could motivate the production of another feelgood anthology: Shakespeare Can Save Your Life. There may have been days when you were younger and you felt that you needed Hamlet like you needed a hole in your head. The paramedic chatting to me in a tone somehow both relaxed and urgent (will she wake up all the way?) looked just like Ian McKellen’s Iago. Lying on the road, I enjoyed engaging with Iago, my convent-school-acquired chattiness almost as strong as survival instinct; and both helped in my climb back into the body within the chalk outline, breathing spring air and seeing darkness. The paramedic had been in the military. He was a confirmed bachelor. He is Iago, I thought, suddenly at ease. We smiled ...


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