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Ophelia from Hamlet and Justine from Melancholia

She wasn’t
mad—at least not

crazy the way
everyone suggests;

let’s say she
was just really

pissed off at
Hamlet and his

douchey self-
important quest to

avenge his father’s
death. I mean,

a ghost talked him
into it, so let’s get

real about who
is really crazy,

okay? And then,
you know, he was

basically a dick
to her—I love you,

I don’t love you,
join a convent

why don’t you?
Or maybe a brothel,

people aren’t
sure anymore what

Hamlet meant in
that famous speech.

So Ophelia’s like,
Great, my hot crush

is fucked in the head
and thinks I’m a whore

or wants me to
give up sex forever and

marry Jesus. And her
father’s not much

help, hiding in the
curtains until Hamlet

pokes him in the gut,
and where’s her brother?

France, on vacation,
no big deal. Ophelia’s

fine, you guys. No one
can hurt her now

that she’s dead. Gertrude’s
like, She appeared

incapable of her own
distress and painters

have rendered her
peaceful in the stream,

holding flowers in her
hands like Kirsten Dunst

in the poster for
Melancholia and maybe

she’s a kind of Ophelia too,
like me, the only one

who can’t care about
the insanity around her

when the world
hurtles toward oblivion

in the form of a planet
or a revenge scheme

of matricide and regicide
or because someone

has moved out of the
house without saying

a word and left behind
half of a life, the half

he didn’t want, the half
that limps forward anyway,

the half that climbs into
a willow tree to see

whatever world lies
beyond this mad, mad moment.


Between Division and Future Streets

I move into a one bedroom
overlooking Glassell Park and

the Los Angeles River and
the 5 and the hills of Echo Park

between Division and Future
Streets. Division runs drunk

through the neighborhood,
splitting Mount Washington

into two separate lives. Future
Street rises straight up the face,

turns sharply and then goes down
to just one lane, makes a 90 degree

curve and, from time to time,
gets lost in the spaghetti of streets

only to reappear suddenly on the
far side of the hill, shunning

drivers with its abrupt end
in a one-way alley. The apartment

gets a lot of light, and at night
the yellow glow of porch lamps

and street lamps dot the dark
landscape like a pattern for the

Lite Brite I played with as a child,
plugging in plastic pegs to make

something beautiful appear,
something I could turn on when

the night set in, something to
give comfort when the future

was an unknowable beast beneath
the bed and when sleep divided me

from the world I knew, replaced with
a world I could not fathom.  


Charles Jensen is the author of The Nanopedia Quick-Reference Pocket Lexicon of Contemporary American Culture and The First Risk, which was a finalist for the 2010 Lambda Literary Award. His previous chapbooks include Living Things, which won the 2006 Frank O’Hara Chapbook Award, and The Strange Case of Maribel Dixon.  A past recipient of an Artist’s Project Grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, his poetry has appeared in Bloom, Columbia Poetry Review, Copper Nickel, Field, The Journal, New England Review, and Prairie Schooner. He is active in the arts community by serving on the Emerging Leader Council of Americans for the Arts.  He currently works as the managing editor at the Colburn School, a leading performing arts school, and lives in Los Angeles.