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Hamlet Hamlet's Mother Feels Her Age
published in The Rialto

Hamlet
awoke with a headache.
He smiled weakly across the coverlet
at his mother and knuckled his teeth.

She stroked his arm and he rose suddenly
and opened the curtains; in the streets
below, the common people bluefooted without
                                [perfume, queuing

for bread. He took a pitcher of wine
from the bedside table and emptied it
over the battlements. It drained down
into the moat, but first it dyed the portcullis
                                        [red.

"No more, Mother," he scowled, "I'll come to
                                        [you
no more." She laid a finger in the furrow
of his back and the cold dough morning flesh
arched away from her, his hipbone knocked

against the window sill. "I wonder why,"
She sighed, "I'm growing old. I wash with milk
and go for walks. I wonder why I'm old."

There was a tic in her cheek and she cried.
She looked at him with the white air attracted
to his body, conglomeration of refreshing needles
magnetised, gouging and carving his lines.

I was young for a long time, she thought,
and nodded like a sage. One day, I could say:
"I was young yesterday, for certain

I was." One day has passed and now I'm old. There's a hair
gone grey in the night and envenoming shadow under my eyelash, loose mutton
at the back of my thigh and a stiffness behind my kneecaps.

She crushed her lips against each other and turned her mirror over.
Hamlet drew his shirt on, while she mourned. He bent to kiss
her forehead, but changed his mind. He went out to Plato
and a little fencing practice before lunch, the draught

from the corridor and the sound of a chambermaid startled came in,
then the door closed, it seemed to boom closed again and again,
although she knew she was imagining. She put her face to the cool wall
and rubbed against it, as if she were applying a compress
against a slap. Then the slap started to fade
like a reverberation of broken frost spattering like hail
on glass. She wished and wished she were young,
and her husband back from the war.


Read by Anna Andresen | Produced by David Angus

© 2014 Alan Dunnett | Illustrations Jo Dunnett - London based artist | Design by Matt