—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.