Purgatory

This poem is for anyone who has ever sat through a Shakespeare play and found it too long.

Purgatory
by Maxine Kumin

And suppose the darlings get to Mantua,
suppose they cheat the crypt, what next? Begin
with him, unshaven. Though not, I grant you, a
displeasing cockerel, there’s egg yolk on his chin.
His seedy robe’s aflap, he’s got the rheum.
Poor dear, the cooking lard has smoked her eye.
Another Montague is in the womb
although the first babe’s bottom’s not yet dry.
She scrolls a weekly letter to her Nurse
who dares to send a smock through Balthasar,
and once a month, his father posts a purse.
News from Verona? Always news of war.
Such sour years it takes to right this wrong!
The fifth act runs unconscionably long.


It’s Romeo and Juliet of course. And the purgatory might not actually be Act V of the play, The poem is a case of alternative facts  What if Romeo and Juliet had escaped death in the crypt? What if the purgatory is the quotidian sour years of their marriage exiled in Mantua?

Life is not so romantic. Romeo is unshaven with egg yolk on his chin. Juliet has a second baby on the way and the cooking lard has smoked her eye. She gets a weekly letter from her old Nurse and their finances are propped up by a monthly stipend from his father. It’s a far cry from the romantic passion of their teenage affair in Verona.

In 1975, Salvador Dali the Spanish surrealist illustrated a limited (only 999 copies were published) edition of Romeo & Juliet that featured ten lithographs. It was published by Rizzoli and came in a red silk slipcase.  

Here are three of them. Lockport Street Gallery has copies of the whole set.

The featured image is a detail from Market Of Verona by Paul Signac

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