To die upon my wedding sheets does have
a certain elegance, but that was all
that could in any way be deem’d elegant
’bout my untimely death. That my fair husband
5 should have been so beguiled by that base coward
Iago heats my gentle blood to boiling
and causes me to think unwomanly thoughts
and wish his tortured death upon the rack,
I feel as though my joining with Othello
10 has given me a soldier’s hot desire
to spill the blood of those who do me harm.
We were so blissfully contented at that
point, with our marriage now known to all.
We were so newly wed that only half
15 our vows had come to full fruition -
for when I stole forth from my father’s house
I hid me in the Saggit’ry, which is
no kind of place to consummate our vows.
I know the soldier’s life is rough and ready
20 but I would not lie with him where gleams
of candle-light bounced off the shining blades,
tenderness and love have no place there
among the trappings and raiments of war.
Should I have realised then that he was too hot,
25 that his black spleen would turn melancholy
to bitter rage? That he would make love midst the
swords and knives, should that have been a warning
that violence was ne’er far from his mind?
I know not, now, what I should have done, then,
30 but I followed him to Cyprus so that we
could be together as man and wife should be.
The sailors were not happy to have a woman
on board their ship, it was bad luck they thought,
but I became their lucky charm, and the
35 rude winds did seem to send us on our way
as smooth as babies in their cradle rock’d -
as though the ship had some maternal feeling
and tenderly did keep us far from harm
like a nurse who wraps a babe in swaddling
40 to keep it safe and sound, and yet still
I was afeared to plunge into the maine
and sink beneath the waves to wat’ry doom
with his strong arms not there to pluck me out
and hold me safe upon the sturdy planks.
45 And on arriving safe in Cyprus, more
heart-ache to find my lord had not arrived
and no news of his barque upon the waves -
I fearèd him forever lost, all hands
gone down – all hope gone I would wait in vain.
50 I hid my fear in courtesy and talked
overmuch with Cassio, it was
bordering on immodesty but I
assay’d only to hide my crippled heart
and impious fear that harm had come to him.
55 I could not bear to lose what I had so
newly won, and won at such a price
that I was now alone in strange comp’ny,
I forsook my country and my friends,
my father and my home, my way of life
60 to be a soldier’s bride and go with him.
So when my dear Othello disembarked
upon the tempest-tossed sweet shore of Cyprus
and held me close in welcome and relief
I stayed within the circle of his arms
65 and felt his words come rumbling from his chest
as he briefly told the story of their voyage.
His arms were as a cage but one where I
was willing pris’ner with no will to stray,
a bird so tame that even if the cage
70 were totally removed I’d have no wish
at all to fly away. No lime was needed
to keep me in that trap where I was mistress
of his moods and tempers and his love.
When he arrived I laced my slender fingers
75 inbetween his batte-hardened knuckles,
and marvelled at the contrast of our skin.
The first time that he took my hand in his
I tried to scrape the black away with my
little finger nail, to see what was ’neath
80 that ebony. He saw me scrape and felt
my foolish hand in his, he laughed and said
‘No sword has been forgèd that could do what
your little nail assays,’ and yet I always
think on if the sun had not beat down
85 so fierce on him if he would be as pale
as other men, as me who they call ‘fair’.
I cannot help but wonder sometimes if my
father was not right in thinking that he
bewitchèd me to make me fall so hard.
90 The moment that he ope’d his mouth I was
helpless. It was love at first sound not at first sight, although his dark-skinned visage
was not a fearful or unpleasant sight.
His stories made me cry alone for him,
95 that such a man should be so cruelly torn
from his homeland and his loving people. And yet I know that I enchanted him
at least as much as he enthrallèd me!
‘The captain’s captain’, they called me in jest
100 and while we wouldn’t discuss affairs of state
the small decisions were mine to make and he
was ruled by me, content if I were content.
Is that where he began to stray to madness?
To be ruled by one’s wife could be a heavy
105 load to bear, and yet were we not made
from Adam’s rib to be of comfort and of
help to all mankind? And should we then
not make our feelings known when all would be
more peaceful if we women were given
110 a little more free rein and time to speak?
He was so respected that giving in to me
in such small matter as Cassio’s transgression
would not have made a blot at all on his
spotless copy book, for all the men
115 looked up to him and learned to see beyond
the dark and diff’rent colour of his skin
to the great leader and the man within.
Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category
To die upon my wedding sheets does have
‘I never did like those’ he said, nodding towards the packet, trying to break the awkward after-dinner silence.
‘Pink Wafers?’ she asked, incredulous, mouth full.
‘Yeh, they’re just…’ His voice died away. She looked at him and ate the last of her wafer.
‘Are you dead inside?’ she asked matter-of-factly. He laughed, slightly uncomfortably and looked away from her. She ate the last of her wafer and licked her sweetened lips. As she raised her eyebrows teasingly he realised she wanted an answer.
‘I, uh, no,’ he said, attempting a smile. ‘Not the last time I checked.’ He wavered after the feeble joke failed to raise an answering smile and they sank back into silence.
‘Full of chemicals’ he muttered a few moments later. ‘Chock full of chemicals, no nutritional value at all.’
‘Delicious chemicals,’ she corrected. He hid a smile.
‘Pah! They’re just chemicals held together with sugar, and coloured pink to attract small children. Girls I suppose.’ He realised his mistake as he said it, but her repost was already in full flight.
‘Oh right, because boys would prefer macho, spiky biscuits. Poison biscuits. Look how hard I am, I eat poison biscuits.’ She stopped, hands raised, realising how ridiculous she sounded, but he was on his mettle now.
‘Ach, don’t be ridiculous, you know I didn’t mean it like that. Keep your pseudo-feminist rants to yourself. I was merely commenting on the despicable way that unscrupulous advertising companies market products to innocent children who then persuade their doting parents to buy said product…’ He stopped when she stood up from the table, chair scraping on the boards. She did the angry flicky-thing with her hair. Oh crap he thought, I’ve done it again. As she clomped past him in the boots that always turned him on she snapped
‘Jeez, all those long words, I’m surprised you can understand yourself sometimes. Asshole.’ She flounced out of the room. He couldn’t help himself. As she started climbing the stairs he shouted
‘Arsehole, darling. We are not American.’ Silence from upstairs. He picked up the packet of pink wafers and tentatively bit one in half. Smiling, he stood up. Delicious chemicals.
Barnaby, Wentworth and Jam in a line on stage. Wentworth on the audience’s left, Barnaby in the middle and Jam on the right.
J: [thoughtfully] It’s been a long time
W: [unemotionally] Yes
J: [mournfully] Is this it?
B: [melodramatically, gesturing] When shall we three meet again? In thunder -
J: [wearily, not malicious] Oh, do shut up, Barnaby
B: [indignant] Why?
J: We are not witches. We’re not intelelelectuals. We are not about to greet Macbeth with the news of his iminent appointment as Thane of Cawdor. Wandering around quoting The Bard at inappropriate moments…it’s not the done thing.
B: [taking the piss] Not the done thing? Oh gollygosh, it’s just not cricket.
J: Do shut up, Barnaby. This should be solemn.
The three men fall into silence. Some time passes.
B: I’d quite like to be a witch. A wizard I mean. I’d be great and terrible. Like a god. Or the Wizard of Oz.
J: I did think the others would come. They RSVPd…
B: I like it just us three! Like old times. Remember? [pause] Oh, one could get quite soggy with nostalgia and need wringing out to dry.
J: Oh do shut up, Barnaby.
J: I was getting all solemn until you ruined it Barnaby. Prattling on about the bleeding Wizard of Oz! If anyone gave you magical powers I’d disappear faster than you could say Abracadabra.
B: [laughs, appreciatively] I say, good punning there.
B: He made a joke.
J: I most certainly did not. I was observing the solemnity of the occasion. [pause] Unlike some.
B: Oh, bollocks to solemnity. Don’t you know any synonynonymns for solemn? Sombre? Grave? Serious? Fucking Miserable? [pause] Anyway, you did make a joke.
J: I tell you, I did no such thing. And watch your mouth, Barnaby.
B: [impatiently] But you did! If it was unintentional then I suppose it was an example of your inate (read: deeply hidden) wit. You said that if anyone gave me magical powers you’d disappear. Now, you meant that you’d run away because you wouldn’t trust me with magic, and you could also have meant that I would make you disappear, with my new-found magical gifts. Do you see how it works?
W: [impassive] Yes.
J: [unamused] Oh! Now I feel guilty. To make a pun at such a time…only a callous sort of chap would do such a thing. To think that I could pun with such gay abandon. [shakes head in self reproach]
B: Only Wentworth and I heard you. And we wouldn’t besmirch your reputation by revealing that you destroyed any semblance of solemnity on this occasion by punning, would we Wentworth old chap?
B: Although, the occasion did have a certain gravitas until you said that.
W: For shame, Jam. For shame.
J: What? It was a mistake!
W: [solemnly] Never trust a man named after a foodstuff. That’s my advice. You’d do well to mark it young Barnaby.
[Barnaby shuffles closer to Wentworth and away from Jam]
J: Me Mam just liked the name…that’s all.
[B shuffles closer to W]
J: [with a note of desperation in his voice] Chaps? Everyone likes Jam…
B: [triumphantly] But that’s got a double meaning too! Do you mean everyone likes Jam-the-man or Jam-on-toast. [pause] Or bread. Or scones. I mean, I like jam on scones. But Jam-the-man….well, at best I’m indifferent.
B: Which did you mean?
W: [hard] Either way, you have now made a pun and told an untruth. This cannot stand.
J: [wildly] An untruth? I…certainly…did not…
W: [gathering steam] From Barnaby’s previous statement it is clear that not everyone likes Jam-the-man, he is “at best indifferent”, and I happen to hate Jam-on-toast. And scones. Thus, neither interpretation of your pun is truth.
[B and W are now shoulder to shoulder, facing J]
J: I didn’t intend…to pun…
B: But you did.
B: Although the second was feeble.
J: I should…
Exit J. W and B shake hands.