“I knew him, Horatio.” – Hamlet (5.1.168)
Often, at home, I unpinned Yorick’s bells
and put them on myself, taking a bit
of laughter’s weight, for being teased requires
greater patience than you think. I would dance
and jingle by the cook pot while he drank
a jug of bitter ale. I loved him though
his back were question-crooked with the work
of jest, and no one called the way he loosed
and caught the brightly painted balls a skill.
He was a man for all; he carried children
in his arms and made allowance for the spit
of a child-prince who thought his kisses
were indeed a gift. Yorick brought lightness
to winter’s darkened air, spun hoops of fire
on the night we met that flashed, reflected
in his eyes. I didn’t note the whirling hoop
ascend but marked the patient hands I knew
already in that moment would attend
and break the arc of fall by catching it.
That’s how it was with Yorick: commotion
and disorder in an antic orbit,
clouding up the sky like mists of blackish
gnats surrounding him that drove the aping
courtiers to wilder and more painful jests
but at the center always quiet stillness
pared of question like a churchyard bone.
Elizabeth Sylvia is a poet living with her family in Massachusetts where she teaches high school English and coaches debate. Elizabeth began submitting poems for publication in 2018, and her work has been featured in most recently Pleiades, J Journal, and Smoky Blue Literary Arts. She has additional work forthcoming in Salamander, Chatauqua, and Crab Creek, among others.