Ophelia drowning

based on a painting by John Millais

by Greg Tome

Above the water surface
                                   hands implore the still air
 her pale face mouths words 
                                             from yearning songs
      she lies afloat the gentle stream
The water boosts the bold peacock-tail colours
                                                     of her defiant dress
                 doomed soon to surrender to saturation
                           drag its contents 
                                                 down          into
                                                               another world
              where the edgy tensions 
                                    of Elsinore court
                                                         do not exist
           nor the mind-splitting
                                                 heart-splitting clash of loves
                                    for father and prince
                       for father killed by prince

                    flowers         leaves reflect 
                                 the prince’s elusive       flickering love
                         the father’s love
                                                 in the branches
                                      menacing       protecting
                              reaching over that vulnerable face
                                               framed by her wayward floating hair

Away from this idyllic stream
                    to a gaping resting place in a graveyard
In contrast to the peace
                                      of where she yielded up her life
 pyrotechnics will reign
                       as grieving brother 
                                              and guilt-ridden lover
                       challenge      abuse      posture
 Braggadocio      threats       insults
                            split the air

     So many words
                             too late

Shakespeare’s Hamlet was the play set for study in my matriculation year in secondary school a very long time ago. Anyone aware of the play has to have sympathy for Ophelia who is manipulated by her devious father, the king’s chief adviser. She loves Prince Hamlet who loves her in his own erratic style, in between periods of scolding and mocking her. It is not surprising that her sanity is threatened when her lover kills her father. Millais’s painting shows her floating in a stream that will drown her.  The masochistic posturing of Hamlet and Ophelia’s brother at her burial site highlights the poignancy of her condition.

It was only some time after he had retired from teaching Secondary School History that Greg Tome spent time writing poetry. Since then he has had two books published by Ginninderra Press, Watching from the Shadows and Tilting at Time. He has had a number of poems published in literary magazines, the most recent by BlazeVOX and by the initial edition of Burrow.

He is an active member of the Southern Highlands branch of the Fellowship of Australian Writers where he is the convenor of activities associated with etymology.

Tome also enjoys writing ten minute plays which are performed in a local short play competition.

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