—Barking, 675. Edith, a nun dying of the plague, speaks from her bed.

Take your salves     candles
shriving basins     I’ll not linger
among buckets     bedsheets
foul boasters     of the living
My bridegroom     waits
I’ll meet him hoodless     snood
unfastened.     He’ll feed me figs
from a golden dish     rub my feet
with henna     blossoms
Dark spins     on its axle
pinches     my throat
Hags of death     do not come
near me with     your stinking rags
your sighs     your psalters
Bury them     in the southwest
garden     freshly dug
for our brothers     and sisters

Flea     rat-rider
bog-lively     guest
unbidden     in your tight black coat
pin-prick     so quick
they barely     feel it
lovely leaps     kiss in the night
So small     so small
you’re hardly     there at all
O flea     one chosen
flea     on her bolster
she’s your host     your savior
You snack     on those
least-looking     Soon
she’ll leave     you and your ilk
breath-robber     death-jobber
Her sickness     her salve
One bite takes her out of this world 

Is that you     Mother
come from     ten other beds?
Take this bone needle    best
in my thread-box     I’ll not
need it     where I’m going
no flax fields    no meadows
no limbs brazen     with apples
no teaching     Aesica his alphabet
Three times     he called out
in his dying    Edith! Edith!
Edith!     I knew I’d be next
Wax-light    tallow
nothing to     day’s dawning
Will He     want me
want me    frankly?
Will He     take me
blotched     and swollen?
Let me shine     not with fever
but with     womanliness
Yes     water
sweet swallow     yes

From Need-Fire by Becky Gould Gibson. Copyright © 2007 by Becky Gould Gibson. Reprinted with permission of Bright Hill Press.