~ Gertrude ~

It stings to see my son
avert his eyes from me.
For so long
our connection to one another
passed only through the iron wall
dead-set between us:
my husband, his father, the King.
But that wall is gone now
and I long to stand
with clear, open air
between our minds and hearts.
I am not like those mothers
who harbor a soft regret
when their babes are grown;
I love to see my Hamlet a man.
No more vivid mind in Denmark dwells
than that which crowns him;
and though it’s said Laertes
is the finest swordsman
to wield blade in our royal circle,
I have seen steel flick and strike
like summer lightning
from my son’s hands.
Though he would fence
for the high spirit in sport,
rather than the letting of blood.
Claudius speaks to him now
in a fatherly tone,
and perhaps that is what rankles.
A young man so long
under the thumb of a hard father,
might well wish to be free
from anyone’s shadow.
But do his downcast eyes
speak of sullen anger toward me?
I pray not.
Perhaps he thinks me over-swift
to become his uncle’s wife,
but would he think better
if he knew that I had turned
to Claudius long before, in solace;
from a husband who might have been
turned to stone, not caring to offer
even grudging warmth, or fleeting caress.
Dear Hamlet,
we should be free together now.
Claudius still speaks to him,
and now puts forth the suit
that I myself would wish upon him.
“Your intent in going back to school
in Wittenberg; it is most retrograde
to our desire, and we beseech you,
bend you to remain
here in the cheer and comfort of our eye.”
I go quickly to join Claudius,
and would have reached a hand
to touch Hamlet on the cheek,
did he not take a single, slow step backward.
“Let not your mother
lose her prayers, Hamlet.”
I offer all the love I bear him with my voice.
“I pray you to stay with us;
go not to Wittenberg.”
For a moment, a long moment, he is silent.
Then: “I shall in all my best
obey you, madam.”
A declaration empty of happiness.
Oh Hamlet, how that stings.
But it must be enough.
With you here, I shall bend all my light
to make you bloom again.
I swear it to God;
I swear it to you, beloved son.