For Phoebe, Always and Never – by Cameron Cobane


                           – with lines from Arthur Rimbaud’s Ophelia                                      


You were precious, always and never.

The breath of wind that displaced you

(that spoke to you in low voices of better freedom)

From Shannon’s banks to Connecticut’s,

Was first balmy in its westerly approach.

Soon, tempered by the arctic gales

Over jealous waves, it became the frigid gown

Of mourning that swaddled you, the tempest

Of your habitat. Impoverished of warmth,

Untouched, untouchable lily, snatched up

By that capricious current and dropped

Upon the bed of some frosty foreign stream.

(O pale Ophelia! beautiful as snow!)



You were desired, always and never.

Ushered along that alien waterfront by your callous chaperone,

 (On the calm black water where the stars are sleeping)

Colder ground beneath you now than in familiar emerald slopes.

‘Irish whore’ they came to call you when they found you there,

Our children, our monstrosities, indelicately took their hold

Of this newfound naked novelty, a toy for nasty play.

How did you comprehend the damage they brought you to?

Your petals, barely budded, torn and scattered along pathways diseased.

How did they pay the debt of grace accrued in their rape of you?  

Can I yet hope to settle this account with redress of love for you

Or with hate and harm for those that held you there,

dangling above the gnashing rocks and rapids?

Always, and never, with heart-scars that promise to burst and bleed for ages.

(For more than a thousand years sad Ophelia
Has passed, a white phantom, down the long black river.)


A flower hung above a stairwell to dry. Life is drained from the blossom; petals have browned and become brittle, and the stem chokes for moisture before hardening to a woody skeleton. Pressed between pages of a book we loved once but never now open to read, the flower is kept, in death, safe from harm, with the secret that she withered for.

(You come seeking, in the night, the flowers that you picked
And that he has seen on the water, lying in her long veils
White Ophelia floating, like a great lily.)

7 thoughts on “For Phoebe, Always and Never – by Cameron Cobane

  1. I asked Cameron about his process for writing this, and he wrote…

    “It was something that I wrote on my own in response to a rather insensitive blog post on the subject of Phoebe Prince. I wrote it in about an hour, in an emotionally heightened state, which I find catalyzes this type of writing. Due to the flexible nature of Julie Kizershot’s Creative Writing class, I was able to fit it into the loose criteria of a weekly assignment, but it was by no means written for that purpose.”

  2. this poem is very amazing expresses alot of feeling and the words the way u explain the feelings makes the poem beautiful n touching

  3. Hi, my name is Cameron. I wrote this piece. I just wanted to acknowledge the influence that Julie Kizershot’s poem entitled For Susannah had on me in approaching the subject of bearing witness to tragedy in literary form. It’s a a deeply poem. Hers, I mean.

  4. Wow, I see that the above post makes no sense… I apologize, as I haven’t quite calibrated my new wireless keyboard. Here’s my edit:

    I just wanted to acknowledge the influence that Julie Kizershot’s poem entitled For Susannah had on me in approaching the subject of bearing witness to tragedy in literary form. It’s a deeply moving, visceral poem. Hers, I mean.

  5. Hello Cameron. I enjoy really like the poem you have wrote. There are some parts I disagree upon. I read that it was in response to a blog post you read but I know a lot more about the person who is getting the charged with rape and he has been one of my friends since literally birth. There are a lot of fact that where not know or presented in respect for the family. I’m not defending my friend because I was also friends with phoebe and i miss her so much. I talked to her for an hour everyday and it hurts. I do like the poem but for me it hit a little to personally for comfort. I am in actual tears for writing this.

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