Remembering Ophelia

His scathing tongue had thrust her to the edge.
It nudged her through the willow’s sunless fringe.
She teetered on that petal-littered ledge
Where Hades howls and bluest moons unhinge
The violet thoughts of agitated minds.
The breath of death, it wreathed her in a kiss
Of fennel fronds and fragrant columbines.
It drew her gasps as surging waves claimed flesh.
She thrashed and then she drowned within a deep
Swirling pool of turbulence and grief.
A prince awash with tears that lovers weep
Stood clouded in a shroud of disbelief.

A shower of flowers rained upon her grave…
Sweets to the stricken heart no soul could save.



Like Portia

I want her poise. I want her grace. I want her flair to light my face.
I want her cool, her zest and fuel. I want her pluck to bend each rule,
Her wit to conquer fiend or fool. I want to be like Portia.

I want a plop of heaven’s rain to drop its mercy on my plain—
A gentle kiss of tenderness, a soft caress that will address
All strain and stress. I must confess I crave the calm of Portia.

I want to shun the sceptered sway and rise above the earthly fray
To thwart ill will as justice should. I want to garner all that’s good.
I want to join the sisterhood of could-be, would-be Portias.

I want a sweetheart’s hand to hold, a suitor with his eye on gold.
Its glister goads my heart and head—what wooer’s lured by lumps of lead?
In her fair shoes I’ll never tread. I’m falling short of Portia.

All mercy has eluded me. My lack of grace and dignity
Befouls each day and blights each night. I’m burning for a barbarous fight—
To pummel pounds of flesh in spite. I’ll never be like Portia.



Desdemona’s Doppelgänger 

a villanelle

He loved her with the passion of Othello.
A spark of darkness flickered in his eye.
He turned her firm and fevered flesh to jello.

He plucked her zinging heartstrings like a cello
Till moonstruck musings made her swoon and sigh.
He loved her with the passion of Othello.

She served him juicy lips of ripe morello
Beneath a blushing cherry-blossom sky.
He turned her firm and fevered flesh to jello.

Her brooding dude eschewed the meek and mellow
To bellow, strut and rut and signify
He loved her with the passion of Othello.

She melted to his whim like soft marshmallow,
All gooey in her gratifying high.
He turned her firm and fevered flesh to jello.

One night a green-eyed beast bit her bedfellow
Who (with a pillow) smothered her last cry.
He loved her with the passion of Othello.
He turned her firm and fevered flesh to jello.




By the pricking of my thumbs,  
Something wicked this way comes.  
By my warty nose’s twitch
Something dismal leaves the ditch.
By the ticking of my brain
Something poxy writhes in pain.
By the clicking of my jaw
Evil sharpens tooth and claw.
By the tail of newt and shrew
Double trouble’s gonna brew.
By the bubbling of my pot
I foresee a gory plot.



Susan Jarvis Bryant has poetry published on Lighten Up Online, Snakeskin, Light, Sparks of Calliope, and Expansive Poetry Online. She also has poetry published in TRINACRIA, Beth Houston’s Extreme Formal Poems anthology, and in Openings (anthologies of poems by Open University Poets in the UK). Susan is the winner of the 2020 International SCP Poetry Competition, and has been nominated for the 2022 Pushcart Prize.

NOTE TO READERS: If you enjoyed this poem or other content, please consider making a donation to the Society of Classical Poets.

The Society of Classical Poets does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or commentary.

CODEC Stories:

15 Responses

  1. Paul Freeman

    Four worthy tributes to our Will.

    I reckon the Bard would especially have liked the humour and poetic form of ‘Desdemona’s Doppelgänger’. As for me, I’m in awe at some of the rhymes you found (and that worked so well) for ‘Othello’.

    Thanks for the reads, Susan.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you very much for this, Paul – I’d like to think the Bard would have a good titter at “Desdemona’s Doppelgänger”. I know he has an excellent sense of humour, which is but one of the reasons I admire him. I’m thinking of wearing cross-gartered yellow stockings (Malvolio style) to celebrate his big day. 🙂

  2. Jan Darling

    Susan – you never fail to entertain with feasts of finely garnished brain. I so enjoy your every word – you always serve your whey with curd. You leave no musing incomplete, all meanings present, all replete.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Jan – your rhyming, rhythmic, and rapturous response to my poem has made my day! I am thrilled to hear my poems entertain you… with poetic encouragement like this, I am certain they will continue to do so. Thank you very much!

  3. David Watt

    Susan, it is difficult to choose a best poem from your four worthy tributes to the bard. You never rest until finding the best rhyme combinations. I am reminded of the motto appearing on the end of those old Furphy water tanks:
    “Better, better, best.
    Never let it rest
    Till your good is better
    And your better best.”

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      David, thank you very much for your kind and encouraging comment. I love the Furphy water tanks motto… an excellent morsel of wisdom to nibble on when I’m writing my next set of poems. I am intrigued by form and love to mix it up a bit… the hard bit is making sure the form fits the message. I’m sure I’ve made a few mistakes on that front. Thanks again.

  4. Brian Yapko

    Susan, thank you for remembering Shakespeare’s birthday! He’s 457 years old and still going strong. Thank you as well for the delightful poetry, each of which is so accomplished in such different ways. Cauldron is perhaps the most Shakespearian of the four and echoes the Weird Sisters very directly. I worry about that “gory plot” and wonder if you have a few words to clarify what evil the speaker is foretelling? Or are there too many to choose from?

    Regarding your Ophelia poem – how appropriate that you chose a Shakespearian sonnet form. Your imagery is quite beautiful though I’ve never pictured her death as one of violence. I’ve always pictured her floating gently into her sad suicidal death. But, for that matter, I’ve never actually enjoyed her character and I question the extent to which Hamlet actually mourned her. Ophelia is a very interesting role and you’ve presented her with great pathos.

    Your villanelle is shear genius and I think it would tickle Shakespeare himself. But it’s a strange poem – Desdemona’s tragedy is blended with some hilarious, anachronistic details. One of your gifts is the ability to harmonize the most serious subject matter with sardonic humor. I’ve said this before, but I find your ability to deal with such contradictory subject matter to be very Gilbertian (his “I’ve Got a Little List” and “My Object All Sublime” are shocking in their bloodthirsty viciousness and yet they are hilarious.) I will say this. I will never eat jello again.

    I’ll end with your Portia poem, which I actually find to be rather moving. Yes, she is something of a gold standard for pluck and embodying the quality of mercy. But, considering that she’s a fictional character who doesn’t live in these trying times, I’d say you measure up pretty darned well.

    Well done on all four, Susan!

    • Margaret Coats

      Brian, I agree with your finding Ophelia a character not easy to like, and thinking that Hamlet did not much mourn her. If the two had felt real love for one another, they might have escaped the rotten state of Denmark–but it seems they could not have changed it. They are caught in their family and state situations. Both experience forces driving them to insanity, and Ophelia succumbs after Hamlet mistakenly kills her father and seems to reject her. She has nothing left–and I do think she becomes a lost soul because there is so little in her. Hamlet understood what it is to lose a father, but he was too much tempted to vengeance to be able to see his kind of grief in the woman he might have loved in better times. In addition, he may be concerned with what he ought to do in his own position, as legitimate but unacknowledged heir to the kingdom. That’s a lot of weight to carry. But it supports the idea that he thought of himself, not Ophelia.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Brian, thank you very much indeed for magnificent and thoughtful comment that has me smiling.

      “Cauldron” called out to me… “By the pricking of my thumbs” is such a great line, I couldn’t ignore Shakespeare’s witches. As for the gory plot… I think Lady Macbeth may have a spot, a damn spot no less, of blood on her hands.

      As for the Ophelia poem, for me, Ophelia’s been one of strangest and saddest of Shakespeare’s characters. I decided to tread the insanity route with her symbolic flowers weaving a little magic through her obscure and tragic “muddy” end. I think she had a touch of hell going on in her head by the time Hamlet had shouted, “Get thee to a nunnery”… I have always thought the suicidal prince was outdone by Ophelia, who was at least decisive… “not to be” being the chosen answer to this miserable question.

      Othello is one of my favorites, and I loved writing “Desdemona’s Doppelgänger” – I hate to confess, but I was sniggering throughout. I saw this play at London’s Globe with Eamonn Walker playing the lead… even though I knew the ending, Eamonn’s performance shocked and horrified me it was that good. I don’t think Eamonn would have approved of my take.

      As for your words on “Like Portia” – I’m glowing. I’m over the moon you enjoyed the poems on Will’s special day.

  5. Cynthia Erlandson

    Just wow, Susan — you’ve done it again! “She teetered on that petal-littered edge…” in “Ophelia” ; your amazing internal rhyme and alliteration in “Like Portia” — and I can just imagine you grinning like a Cheshire cat, thinking of all of those “ello” rhymes for the Desdemona poem.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Cynthia, thank you very much for your appreciation and encouragement… and, you have it right on the Cheshire cat front in the Desdemona poem… I thoroughly enjoyed myself with this one, and I am glad my mood rubbed off. Poets don’t always suffer for their art. 😉

  6. Margaret Coats

    Susan, I say that “Remembering Ophelia” is the best of these pieces, giving a character sketch while it interprets part of the play. Like her brother Laertes, you say that Hamlet killed Ophelia: the “it” in lines 6 and 8 is Hamlet’s scathing tongue. Thus, in your interpretation, Hamlet could have saved her, despite having killed her father inadvertently. But as I told Brian in my response to him above, the prince has weighty concerns outside his love life, and therefore in your poem simply can’t believe that Ophelia is dead or understand how he caused her death. “Shrouded” is a good word for him, as he like Ophelia has too much grief to process, and like her, comes to a tragic end. When you say “no soul could save” Ophelia’s heart, you also acknowledge her emptiness–or her fault if her death is willful suicide. Shakespeare leaves that unclear, and it takes some skill for you to stay with him. To save her heart would have required strength of soul in either one of the young couple, but neither had enough.

    I also like “swirling” as a metrical representation of the motion. If the reader pronounces “SWIR-rel” with 2 syllables as in “squirrel,” you have a trochaic start to the line. If “swirl” is one syllable in the reader’s mind (as it is in mine), your words and meter provide an impulse to say suh-WIRL-ing. Either way, there’s noticeable turbulence in the words as in the water.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Margaret, thank you very much for your in depth and knowledgeable comment. I thoroughly appreciate it.

      This poem was a tough one for me to write. As you quite rightly point out, Shakespeare leaves Ophelia’s death unclear. I have always thought it to be suicide, but because of the contentious nature of that despairing end, Shakespeare did the noble thing and left it obscure. I also believe that Ophelia’s misery left her unhinged. I love the flowers and tried to give the poem an air of mystery and beauty with there subtle song throughout the poem… right to the closing couplet where Gertrude scatters “sweets to the sweet” on her daughter’s grave.

  7. Leland James

    Remembering Ophelia

    Such a fine piece of craft, and emotion. I love the elision “bluest.” Alliteration flows naturally. “Kiss” and “flesh” rhyme in both sound and substance….. And, in the end, a recognition of the grief of Hamlet at what his righteous (and rightful) obsession has wrought and tears for Ophelia….

    This is indeed good work. Thanks for this poem.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      I’ve just spotted your wonderful comment. Thank you, Leland. I admire your poetry and your fine eye. I’m thrilled you cast it over my Ophelia poem and that you appreciated my poetic endeavors. I’m smiling.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Captcha loading...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.