When the dead howl in your belly
and you’re pissing beets, it doesn’t help
to think of Clement VII, fat, sick,
and nearly dead, ingesting 40,000 ducats’
worth of precious gems ground down
and mixed with wine; it doesn’t help
to picture St.Teresa purging, a twig
of olive down her throat to make her
more susceptible to metaphor, bread
as body and flaccid on her tongue
like the silver rind of fat a child is taught
to swallow. Because not every mother bears
a mystic or a pope: some catechisms
swear by beef and its B vitamins
numbered like commandments and red
as salt deficiency—that’s why you glow
and why you’re seeing visions:
whitenesses that fly about like motes
in sunlight delicate and comfortable
as butter until the nausea comes. 


Copyright © 2018 Sarah Barber. This poem originally appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review. Used with permission of the author.