Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Black Bite

- Becky Gould Gibson
                 - 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 . Copyright 2007.


  1. This is such a sad poem and powerful, too. I enjoyed it even as I was moved by the dying woman's words. Thanks for this, Snowball.

    1. She faced her death with defiance, ready to end her journey. I admire that strength. And you are very welcome, Susan.