Yersinia Pestis


“Jupiter hung
In a dark orbit,
Arid Mars

Replied the prior,
“I thought it was Saturn
In cis-martian circumvolution”

“The cooper said
He saw a foul miasma
Come hence 
From the low contree.”

“I hear an old woman
Is wandering from town
To village
Spreading great mortality”

“Nah,” quipped the clark,
A child.

“I hear it’s Jews!”

“A clergyman said death
Stalks the lands
But sleeps under a great oak”

A traveller on pilgrimage
To the relic of Thomas Becket’s
Elbow, ensconced 
in misappropriate gold,
At Canterbury 
Opens the door of
The Kyngeshed.
Round about a table,
Three skeletons slouch
Their mandibles gaping
In macabre conversation.
One clutches a heavy
Earthenware tankard;
One with spindly white fingers
Encircling a wine glass;
The other, hand atop a dagger.
Cobwebs arch from
Skulls to finger bones
And back
And not a stitch of flesh
Clings to their white bones

The traveler approaches
The three,
Mutters a prayer--
Coarse, common, and vernacular,
Slides a gold ring
From the wine drinker’s finger.
He leaves.
The dance macabre,
He hears the scuttering
Of rats feet
Through the closed door

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