top of page


Con Chapman






The Ophelia of Deep River

Ophelia, made mad by the murder of her father, 

Took to singing snatches of song; before long she 

Was weaving garlands of flowers and weeds, climbing 

A willow along a river in Elsinore to hang them there. 

Among the flowers were long purples, orchis mascula, 

Also known as dead men’s fingers, or among the vulgar, 

something far grosser; a too-strong attraction to a 

father, perhaps, was reflected in that choice.


You went down to the water with a purpose, unlike 

Ophelia, who fell into the water when a branch broke. 

She floated, unaware of her peril, her clothes holding 

Her up as she sang, suspended, until at last she sank.


I think you heard overtones of your own as alone, 

You wandered the banks of Deep River; a father who made 

Piano keys, whom you loved too much and blamed 

at the same time, since he was taken from you not by 

death, but by his own choosing. 

Where Ophelia fell, you leapt.

The River Where His Lover Lies

The river where his lover lies 

is not too wide from bank to bank. 

The water eddies here and there 

as it flows down into the sea. 

The ferry carries cars across 

from Chester on one shore to Lyme. 

The surface of the water’s calm, 

there’s not a lot they have to say. 

He took the boat so they could see 

the swans that swim along in pairs. 

They mate for life, he’d said; the plank 

was lowered, so were her eyes. 

Something was amiss that day, 

some inner peace, some needed balm. 

He calculated there was time 

to stem the tide, avert the loss. 

The water made her paleness stark 

against her hair, as she sank down; 

and now he has to damn or thank 

the river where his lover lies.

Were Your Pockets Full of Stones? 

I suppose I know now why 

you chose the river, reading 

that Virginia Woolf put stones 

in her pockets to sink herself down. 

She was for you a perplexing guide, 

she with fierce pride

in her womanhood who 

drowned herself rather than 

spoil her husband’s life. 

At the end she heard voices 

that kept her from working, 

from even writing a 

suicide note properly. 

You too wandered off alone 

and I wonder, as you 

reached the water’s edge, 

were your pockets full of stones?

About the Poet

Con Chapman is a Boston poet whose work has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Light, Spitball and other general circulation and literary magazines. He is currently writing a biography of Johnny Hodges, Duke Ellington's long-time alto sax, for Oxford University Press.

logo erothanatos
bottom of page