~ Ophelia ~
What is in Hamlet’s mind tonight, I wonder?
I should know.
By now, I should know.
Do they not say that those who love
can often read the thoughts
of the soul dearest to them?
A garden of mutual knowledge and caring
to walk through all our lives.
If so, then I must grow accustomed
to nettles and poison flowers
alongside each beckoning rose.
I feel instead
that I stand in a garden labyrinth;
half in company, half alone.
There he stands, like a black cat,
brooding, while gaiety all surrounds.
Though as to the gaiety,
I’m not unmindful
that it has a hollow feel.
My father, even here,
cannot forego to wear the face
he pastes in place each morning
to be Prime Minister;
saying yes, yes, where he feels it needful
despite designs that might run otherwise.
Though he has no hesitation
saying no, no, to me
whenever I speak of Prince Hamlet.
Such worry, and endless lecture
he delivers, speaking of the royal son
as if the black cat were alley-bred,
with rough eye narrowed
and claws barely tamed;
ready to bloody an unsuspecting dove.
But he has not seen Hamlet
in the long watches of the night,
behind my door, come in secret;
all raw with hurt and doubt,
his mind turned in Gordian convolution;
taking solace simply to be held
in arms that bear him no judgment.
And the people love Prince Hamlet.
To a man, to a woman,
they forbear his melancholies
and would have gladly
seen him King even now
in his uncle’s stead.
But I know, as no one else
that Hamlet has no wish for kingship.
Those who might think
he stands apart now in bitterness
from his place one step beneath the throne,
He would rather in musty library be,
studying great minds,
puzzling the undiscovered boundaries
of life, death, life.
Or leaving his books,
lost then in rapture
with his secret lover;
that selfsame dove whom father thinks
At least with all talk of kingship
done now until Claudius’ days are ended,
there is also a blessed cessation of talk
that falls on suitable young queens
to forestall the war with Fortinbras of Norway
that everyone awaits and fears.
Clever King Claudius, I’ll be bound
with Denmark’s bright queen
in hand already,
will put Norway to bed
with equal swiftness.
So the blessed, quiet shadows yet remain
for my black cat and I
to linger in together;
to seek in those byways
of life, death, life;
to grow yet more enamored
of one another’s claws
and the wise blood raised
in our wounding.