moth version

In this version, Hamlet pulls Ophelia out.
She’s awake, in bloom, ripe with death.
Salt in her hair and rue in her eyes.
Her limbs aglow, rose-pink and healthy
but she goes anyway.
Ç’est la morte. Eaten up by moths.

In this version he loses her and knows it, too.
Hamlet curses the sky.
A sonnet dances at his lips.
A shy prayer to a soft-shell god.
(Good night, sweet lady. Good night.)
In time the mouth unlearns the name,
but never the face.
How lovely she always looked, but
they say she was lovelier in the water.

In this version, Ophelia’s ghost never visits.
They both perish and meet again
in New Denmark.
She is unrecognisable.
A new face in a dead city.
The streets are still graced with poison;
drenched in dementia,
but Hamlet and Ophelia
stroll down the same strand of madness.

In this version, Hamlet calls to Ophelia.
She greets him as you would
an estranged child:
holds his skull-cap in the lap
of her billowing dress,
and they watch Elsinore burn to the ground.
There’s no one left for them to haunt.

—  Suraya Kamal, Hamlet
Ta-Nehisi Coates Wins National Book Award
Mr. Coates won the nonfiction award for “Between the World and Me,” a blunt exploration of being a black man in America, published in the middle of a national dialogue about race relations.
By Alexandra Alter

To hear from Ta-Nehisi Coates,

watch this episode from Brief But Spectacular.