Ringed – Elizabeth Sylvia

All that was mine in Silvia I give thee –Two Gentlemen of Verona
How to make a woman mute:
Give her to your friend like the object
of affection she always was.
In Shakespeare, lovers are always
trading rings, each one the licked
fingerprint of a beloved, an arrow
to the eye of the faithless.
Turn the ring sideways and it shows
the hollow of a lover’s heart, the space
his finger forgets to occupy as soon
as that slim first vow is out of sight.
There are two women in Two Gentlemen,
and one ring passed between them:
Julia gives it to her love, but he
gives it to Silvia, who loves
his friend instead.  When Silvia
won’t take the ring, her lover
proffers Silvia’s whole self instead.
Silvia never speaks a word again
in the whole play, her mouth
an empty O, her body a space
ready for slipping on.
In comedy, men bound
without a rebound,
and women, knowing love
must be a secret or a shame,
go on holding, strung around
their necks or deep in pocket,
the ring of remembrance,
the empty me-men-to.

Read: Reading and Writing about Shakespeare by Elizabeth Sylvia

Elizabeth Sylvia (she/her) is a writer of poems and other lists who lives with her family in Massachusetts, where she teaches high school English and coaches debate. Elizabeth’s work is upcoming or has recently appeared in Salamander, Pleiades, Soundings East, J Journal, RHINO, Main Street Rag and a bunch of other wonderful journals. She is currently working on a verse investigation of the writer Elizabeth Barstow Stoddard.

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