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Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Villainy of Hamlet, Part Two, Ian Singleton

The ship is dead within its stillness, while
I stalk below. Each step resounds against
the planks. My mischief makes me brighter yet,
still better knowing ev’ry thought of ev’ry fiend
who sits upon a throne and eats his meals,
who soils the sheets with oily guilt. And yet
he is my blood. ‘Tis not revenge brings me
these thoughts but to distinguish that I am
true Hamlet, heir but of a name and fame.
But I am more, oh truest truth!, I am
a thing that speaks and speaks and speaks until
I’m spoken to, then speak yet more about
our world, I witness, vomit fire that lights
it! Never, never shall I let be safe
and done what icon, ritual I may dance
upon! I leave cracks along the fine
white porcelain of royal ages hence!
When they say Hamlet, they will not say king
but villain utmost! Come my foe! See
Polonius and know that which befell
him, him who wears a veil before me! Though
he may deceive, I will destroy. There is
no love, there is no blood, there is naught but
the hack of broadsword! Heart, set thus!

I run
unto my quarters, slam the door. Both friends
are gone. Oh how my brains boil when I think
of them conspiring on the very ship
on which I stand. Such devils must they be
to trick like that! They must hate honesty
and all the truths of their mistaken lives.
With bastard's rage I tear their chests up from
the floor and heave them 'gainst the walls. Deceit!
And treachery! Oh rage, destroy your kind
and subtler kin! My ire undo them!


I swivel on my heel and see such fear
upon the countenance of Rosencrantz.

“I do believe that we are wronged here by
you, sir.”

I stumble. He begins to speak
but clucks his throat instead. “Perhaps,” I hiss,
“I misdirect myself,” I pick their clothes
up from the floor and speak. I nod and nod.

“Your uncle-father must be made aware.
As for our friendship, we are now beyond
forgiveness, sir, and I refuse to play
the role of whipping boy to such a spoiled,”
at this he grinds his teeth and stamps his foot,
“impulsive,” trembling jowls, “I have no words!”
He throws himself upon and out the door.

I lie down in my hammock, then I pull
the counterpane up o'er my eyes. I think
of rest now that such violence passed.

“You see? He sleeps,” says Rosencrantz in hiss.

“You cur! The Kingdom Denmark rue the day
of your damned namesake's coronation,” jeers
the voice of Guildenstern. I squeeze my fist
below the cover. Yet I keep my eyes
in dark, for peace resides there. “Do you see
the king's instructions?”

“Yes, of course, I brought
them with me,” whimpers Rosencrantz.

The breath
I took remains and I begin to dream
of mutinies inside my mind, the things
that fiends would hatch and undertake.

“I pray

we soon arrive. I can no longer breathe
this air so foul,” says Guildenstern.

They lie
upon their beds and Rosencrantz starts in
to sing of old days and the war when men
came home forgotten by their babes. Is this
the dream of children bored and fatherless?
A certain nameless dread oppresses. The ship
reels back, a corpse lie poisoned in the ear
that turns about to face the Heaven none
of Denmark will yet reach.

Has nightmare struck
or see I Death before my eyes? Is this
my end here on this ship? A heavy black bird, inked
with tarnish. Is this river Jordan? Styx?
At every question Death's head turns but never
turns on me.

A shadow moves across
my eyes. I lift myself and grasp it. All
the room is dark. Within my hand I see
the flute I took to use as metaphor.
I stand. My own possessions I know not,
they having been prepared by men-in-wait.

I shuffle toward the beds of my companions,
say my name to rouse them from what sleep
they may have managed. So has my name preyed
on my dreams. Moonlight washes o'er them. I
espy protruding from the pocket on
the breast of Rosencrantz a scroll. I reach
and slip it out of his weak grasp, then bring
it to the corner where a candle stands
upon the windowsill. The wailing of
the wind swells up my mind. I read the writ:

It is with hope to rehabilitate
the goodly business of our kingdoms two.
A favor must we ask of you: that is
to execute this young and upstart prince,


by manner of beheading unto Death.


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