Today's poem is by Sarah Kennedy

Revelation: 1373

20th-century excavations in Norwich, England, have un-
earthed mass graves where victims of bubonic plague—the
so-called "Black Death"—were buried in the 14th century.
Some scholars of the mystic Julian speculate that the loss of her
family occasioned her divine visions and her decision to
become an anchoress.

Perhaps it was sudden, the Death
taking them all in days. Quick
fever, the arms swelling, a little girl

folded in her arms, too quiet,
too limp. A boy, it could have been,
one day unable to rise and chase

the spurred rooster across the yard.
Did she lie against her husband,
hand on his ribs, waiting to feel

the last breath go, watching the moon
skid through clouds? In the end,
she would have been just another

widow at a common grave,
hundreds of souls piled in a marriage
of withered limbs. She might have stood

in the castle's square shadow and wept
at the mouth of the pit before she prayed
to hang above the earth like Jesus

on the cross, his drops of blood
like a herring's scales, like rain
falling, in spring, from the eaves,

like pellets in their roundness. Only
the sickness that came, at last (so cold
she was, and still, that the priest

performed the rites while her mother
held her hand) could make sense
of her youngest, most innocent—

maybe just loosed from her
milky breast—tossed into the ground.
Dust they were by then, from dust,

and she lay, sole survivor
of her house, resigning herself,
inch by inch, to the God

who'd refused her petitions.
Her mother's familiar palm blessed
her brow and bore her, oh sweet,

toward the dark, until the eyes
of Christ broke upon her vision,
jolting her back—the church would be

her window tomb and all manner
of thing would be well
—to the beautiful,
deadly body of the world.

Copyright © 2005 Sarah Kennedy All rights reserved
from Chautauqua Literary Journal
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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