Claire, in Geneva

By Michelle DeRose

“a misguided girl of 17 who had forced herself upon Byron while he was still in England and who, in January, 1817, bore him a daughter, Allegra.” –The Norton Anthology of English Literature


sexual harassment

The Dishonorable Lord Byron

I hear his thumps down damp corridors
and lean into the oak of my closed door,
try to swallow my knocking gasps’ breath,
and release them slowly, silent as death.
Once I would have hesitantly smiled
that he’d visit the chamber of such a child.
He wooed me with words and the flash in his eyes,
with his poetry whose sensuality implied
that I was womanly beyond my age,
and with the rhymes that formed in his gaze
which circled my body, naked and white,
caught and vulnerable in the moonlight.
Now he fears in the birth, entangled
with one perfect pink foot, one mangled,
stubbed and deadly as an axe blade.
So he devises, with my sister’s aid,
fitting victims for the wretch’s rage:
an innocent child and young woman die
by the monster’s hand. But who is he
but the animated will of the powerful male
whose power and privilege are to tell the tale?



Michelle DeRose is an English professor at a small liberal arts college in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Each week, national political disasters resonate with everything she reads to prepare for the classroom and then filter into what she writes. The current serial sexual predator who occupies our White House joins a long list of such men who seek to control various narratives, but that tradition in no way ameliorates the horror of each completely bungled response of his administration.

Painting of Lord Byron by By Richard Westall – National Portrait Gallery.


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