Runcible Spoon

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His Works


The plague raged from the west to east

where once we’d flattered us sound and safe,

and those great gulfs, the burial-pits

were its footsteps, tokens of advancement.

The prints groaned huger, heavier

at the oppressive height of summer;

they were fed by dark, the dead-carts tumbling

their cargo to cold promiscuities.

In barely a fortnight a thousand corpses

sated the cavities; blanketed by those

appraised of near demise or prey to some

vertiginous fugue who simply lay or threw

themselves on the heaps to seek swift expiry.

Others made mad by insupportable grief;

melancholic weight causing their heads

by degrees to sink. Then the babes

poisoned at suck on the plague-spotted breasts;

incessant roars and lamentations;

the naked raving plunge to water.


From this we fled; fled north so to keep

the sun at our backs and wind in our face;

went in scout of some space to wait out

distemper, in faith it would falter

come chills of December or for want

of flesh to assuage its hunger.

Each village obliged us to parley

from a distance, the townsfolk attempting

to forbid our passage for fear of infection;

have us wander starving forward and backward.

As availing to request a soul to stand fast

in a house blazing incandescent.

For the stronger enemy lay behind;

its pestilent breath on our necks compelled us

to subterfuge, bluff and musketry,

just as animals puff up their selves when in jeopardy.

At length we forged our way out to the forest,

pitched camp and endured until frost and blizzard

had purged the contagious footholds.


When the plague had abated

they all sang God’s praises

and soon forgot His works.