He sent me to a nunnery, either convent or whorehouse
Did not matter, as long as it was away, the great Elizabethan
F— off for a tormented soul’s manic pixie dream girl.
There was nowhere I could end up but drowned in flowers
And strewing herbs, the taste of rue in my mouth
While men argue over who loved me best, not one
Stopped pursuing ghosts to save me from tree climbing
And rambled hummings of virginity and death.
The problem with Shakespeare’s women is we love men
Who mistake sleep for death, daggers in our chest
For a final cold union, or washing our hands of blood
That will always stain. Or agree the sun
Is the moon in perfect obedience, or puppeteered
Near the solstice by Oberon and Titania. Either way
We are damned, doomed marionettes; none of us daring
To snap the string but me, in spun, scissored madness
Filling my lungs with water even as I breathed free.
Ophelia! Ophelia! It’s time you came back to us;
You can’t stay drowned forever weighed down
By martyrdom’s gown Shakespeare sewed you into.
Tossing you back and forth like the Prince’s
“To Be or Not To Be,” espousal. It wasn’t, “What’s to do
With our Ophelia? Poor child she is so frail.” It was more
“How can we use Ophelia,” to suit the changing needs
Of a plot run amok with conscience’s abdication
From the king down to the clown who’s the only one
Among them who cared because he had to dig the grave.
He knew they killed you off, for the thematic problem
You presented the whole plot with. With so many
To die in the final scene they just couldn’t let
Your feigned madness hang there like an ex machina
Gone out of control spinning off into a play your own.
Ophelia, it’s the twenty-first century. Women drive
Tractor trailer, eighteen wheelers, are doctors, lawyers
Even walk in space. All things being equal it’s better
Than it was in Denmark, but still has a ways to go.
There used to be a “sisterhood” though it got co-opted
Sometime back. Your resurrection could just be the nail
To drive through the entire great big glass ceiling
Secretly hidden in every man-cave across America.
You could become a patron saint of equality in the mind
As you hand out your “rue” so ruefully without regret.