~ Ophelia ~
Desperation, I fear, has made me a fool.
Since the morning Hamlet came to me, unspeaking,
with some unhallowed darkness weighing upon his spirit,
he has avoided me, even shunned me.
His dazzling mind, which would ever
leap and tumble across height and valley;
his learned wit, passion and humor
all seem poisoned.
In fact he speaks most incessantly of poisons,
though never direct to me.
To his uncle, his mother,
and even to my father and brother,
he jests with a cruelty that was never within him before,
about Lucifer, Eden’s serpent;
about venomous fangs,
and tainted fruit that hangs in corrupted orchards.
And when he says those things
he searches the faces about him
with a manic light in his eyes;
looking, it seems to me,
for things his barbed words might provoke.
The madness he and I talked of
in terms of fierce play, philosophy, or metaphor,
seems now to run rampant in his brain.
The court whispers the word:
mad, mad, mad.
I wouldn’t care; dear God, I wouldn’t
if I might share it with him.
But he has shut me out
and now I am truly alone.
Who could I turn to?
Across empty nights, Hamlet no more coming to my room,
I began to wish my mother was not dead;
I remember her very little,
which makes it easy to envision her
as wise, as caring.
When in fact only a few sensations
remain to me in my soul of her once-presence:
the soft skin of her palm
as she would sometimes lay it upon my cheek;
and snatches of song, meant to help me sleep.
Lacking her, I thought of my father,
so foolish and pompous at times,
stern and demanding at others.
Yet, I remember that after Mother died
he tried himself to sing to me;
such fumbling efforts, they made me laugh.
But the memory touched my heart.
So, desperate fool, I went to my father
and opened my mind, asking him what to do.
So often he has urged me against the affections
of the Prince, proving to me
his ignorance of the nature of our love.
But I could see as he listened
that he was earnestly troubled by Hamlet’s
seeming lunatic disposition;
kindly, I thought, offering to bend his own perceptions
to unearth the cause.
He resolved to go to the King and Queen,
that all who loved and respected the Prince
might stand together in reflection,
so to seek whatever wounds
of mind and soul afflicted him.
The little girl in me
felt a twinge of hope in this,
while the woman silently quailed.
Was it love, or simply base fear
that led me to ally with those
who daily crafted the bars of my own cage?
Oh my Hamlet, our secret world together, I feel,
is somehow by this violated.
But what else can I do?
This must be known,
which long kept close might move
more grief to hide from hate to other love.