A Sad Tale’s Best…

A Sad Tale’s Best….

We’re revising ‘The Winter’s Tale.’

The English teacher me is only allowed

to meddle near exams

and I’m away for June so we have to catch it now.

Bohemia: fresh fields, new birth and summer.

Sicilia: crabbed landscapes, winter, age.

Bitterness, jealous rages, where you’ll accuse a friend,

send your gracious spouse to prison, cast out

your new-born child.

Then I think of that bastard in Austria

who’s been raping his daughter for years

in a cell; how their offspring grew there too,

in winter, knowing nothing other.

I think, too, of Persephone, raped by an old god;

how Louise Gluck puts it in ’Averno’,

blaming the mother, ‘Your daughter’s having sex in hell.’

Antigonus, in goodie and baddie terms,

is one of the former, defends Hermione,

risks death yet says if she’s proven

dishonest he’ll ‘geld’ his daughters.

Not for the first time do I stop, explain something

my girl already knows, that women

were men’s property or their cattle,

realise that these are generalisations ,

then think again, realise that they’re not.

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