My Children Chose Tragedy

by Katherine Hagopian Berry

as their bedtime story,
on the laptop my mother has skyped in,

William Shakespeare for Children, edited edition
primary as the choice she gives them spoiled

for comedy, so when they pick Hamlet
we are both surprised. Tragedy

is sad, I say. We know,
my son tells me

in his night-sky pajamas. Shakespeare
sounds fun, my daughter counters

winding the braid of her hair like an arras
around the room of her hand.

To my delight, they are breathless,
frozen by the ghostly stare,

Elsinor battlements, murder most foul
both agree Hamlet is a whiner

and I, grateful that they edited Ophelia
still feels a pang when he sends her discretely away.

Children’s editions are light in ambiguity
so Hamlet pretends, he loves, he obeys

enough for heroism, still everyone
is delighted when he skewers Polonius,

pirates and a duel, my husband and I
act it out with wooden spoons as my mother reads,

children howling when I am slain, twitching
on the denrug, eyes on the carefully locked front door.

Do I tell them of the time I saw it live,
at the Barbican, cemented, brutal,

all the golden threads of my life
five rows from the stage,

they were everyone mine, Hamlet, Claudius
every word and though I knew them all

I wept as if I had suddenly become aware
that all things die.

Katherine Hagopian Berry (she/her) has appeared in the Café Review, Rise-Up Review and Glass: Poet’s Resist, among other places. Her first collection, Mast Year, was published in 2020.  She is a poetry reader for the Maine Review. Sally Lelong is a visual storyteller working in a variety of media that lend themselves to use in a conceptual framework. She lives and works in New York, and routinely exhibits her work in a variety of settings from print to thematic installations to street art.

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