horatio alone

Why did you pick me, Hamlet, of all people?
Mine’s no prophetic soul, nor was I born
to set the bones of time back into joint.
I come from middling stock: no stout bourgeois
who’s blood to me was ever foully murdered.
At university, my scholar’s eye
blinked at the soldier’s sword and courtier’s tongue.
No ghost ever gave me the time of day.
Though I excel at disputations, truth
remains elusive; my philosophy
dissolves to echo in Elsinore’s cold halls.
I’m out of place on windy battlements,
clumsy at swordplay, to all customs foreign,
neither an antique Roman nor a Dane.
I couldn’t save Ophelia from drowning.
I fear I’ll never do your story justice.

Yet you – sweet prince, dear Hamlet – chose me still.
You wore me in your heart of hearts; sometimes
you even let me turn its key, unlocking
the golden fire within. You’d take my hands
in yours and talk to me of Alexander –
not of his conquests, but his tragic love.
You tutored me in knowing glances, papers
passed back and forth inside the library stacks,
collars and cuffs smoothed out with subtle gestures
that seemed to me stronger than marriage vows.
You introduced me to your friends at court,
then kissed me secretly behind an arras.
The fact that I can say I knew you, Hamlet,
keeps my heart beating to your wounded name’s
inimitable rhythm. Each beat rebels
against the silence. Thus I tell your story.

*

published in the 2021 sparkipoemi anthology