Things Shakespeare never knew

He is armed.
She is disarming.
It is not a match.
She is not Romeo.
He is not Juliet.

A child cleans her shoes in the kitchen.

Boozy jokes and sweaty hands.
He is nervous. She is numb.
Her skin is stretched over her skull,
high ponytail and the angry makeup of a Scottish queen.
She feels empty inside.
Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Banquo and friends,
Slump at the bar.

The child bought the shoe polish herself,
Because Mandy said, and Mandy’s shoes are ever so clean.

He is inside of her.
Yes, No, No, Yes.
She cannot remember.
He does not care.
He is Ophelia floating down the river,
Hair unkempt, breath stinking of fermented hops.
She is Hamlet, at the point of death,
Toby or not Toby?
Was that his name?

The child scuffs the polish over the dirt.
Wonders why it doesn’t work.
How do Mandy’s shoes get so clean?

She saw him again.
He was in the same room again.
He did not see her.
Could not see anyone clearly,
Through the drunken haze.
She drinks some more.
He drinks some more.
Iago serves at the bar.
Desdemona and Othello
Are blind drunk,
Stabbing each other in the dark.

The child throws the polish at the door.
It falls open, speckles black on the floor.
Mandy’s house has clean floors
She leaves it there and goes upstairs.

Dad sleeps in the street.
The streets are an asp.
Mum sleeps on the couch.
She dreams of a man in uniform who can save her,
An endless drunken stupor,
With the TV on and the towels unwashed.
The post is covered in soot this morning.
They don’t have a fire.
So that is not possible.
She wonders why,
Through hazy eyes.

Their child looks at her newly cleaned shoes,
Shedding black spots on mildew carpet.
She is cold, she is hungry.
Mandy with her nice uniform and pretty hair
Will be at school today.

And she is.

Mandy has her hair in pigtails with pretty ribbons.
They twirl and sparkle in the sun.
Suddenly without warning she grabs Mandy’s hair.
Pulls it hard until Mandy begins to cry,
She sees the tears, feels nothing, does not know why.

‘How you begin life,
Should not determine how you end it.’
Someone famous once said.
But he was an old white man,
Long since dead.

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