Venie Environmental Poetry Prize

Hamlet in the Mind of a Country School teacher by Michael Farrell

‘Adani killed my father’

These words were in Adam’s head when he woke up, but
he was unable to remember any dream they were part of

It was still daylight: he’d been having a nap
between class and the performance, starting at eight

He walked to the theatre, thinking about the play, went
inside: it was filthy; and a smell of gas from the
leaky radiator

He’d arrived early so he sat up the back, thinking to move
closer when others began to arrive

Hamlet’s problem, he thought, was that the only truths he
had to express were ones that no one, least of all himself
wanted to hear

Last time he’d been here was for a school production of A
Midsummer Night’s Dream; he populated the empty stage
with kids crawling over the set, and each other, in green

It emphasised an ecological theme, according to the
program, written by Nadia, the drama teacher: each of the
children’s different roles complemented the others’

Yet to Adam (I am an English teacher after all, he said to
himself in an aside), the children seemed more like an
alphabet than an ecosystem: forming different
letters and words as they moved across the stage, and up
and down different levels of the forest, by vine

He’d lost concentration and forgot about the plot; he was
still vague about it – unlike tonight’s play, which he knew
pretty well, and which would be performed by a touring
professional company of recognisable actors

The blue shadow reminded him of his father (a ghost
rehearsing in the town theatre this bright summer evening?)

No: there was no sign of the cast; could it be gas, and in
any case his father was still alive, and not a miner
but an accountant?

What could he or Hamlet do, to stop the earth spinning to
perdition?

Pear trees grew, tree ferns too, rainforests with child-sized
snakes in them forming S’s and I’s and L’s: be careful in
the quiet

Nadia sat next to him, but was already looking at her
phone, so he didn’t zone in, only relatively, taking in his
surroundings

Yes, he had chosen the worst seat for comfort and view
so he could take that on as a martyr – he’d meant to move
but now he’d have to explain to Nadia; he was sure there
were mice droppings on the floor

He remembered being at the pub the day before, listening
to the pear farmers arguing about the Fortinbras mine, and
the likely effect on them, and their remedy for anger: a
night’s spotlighting

They sounded straight out of Aristotle, or rather like the
version of catharsis argued against by Aristotle’s critics

He spotted one or two of them now, looking and smelling
better than they did at the pub, except the pub was a
posher venue by far

The poster had suggested they were in for a sexy night of
TV stars half-clad and mournful, sponsored by a bank that
must be trying to look good, too

The sponsorship gave Adam a bad feeling, but he thought
that on the whole, he had to side with thinking, and a play
about thinking – however compromising the night
or how it ended (unseasonable weather predicted)

You are the English teacher, after all, as Nadia had said
in the staffroom that afternoon

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