Representative Poetry Online

Random Poem of the Day

for Mark and Debra: Malleus Maleficarum
The ground was never recovered, nor the legions, for their numbers were
thought so ill omened that they never again appear in the army lists.
– J. M. Roberts
2alight in the wind that whips the trees,
3the cotton slips pinned to nylon lines: these improbable ghosts.
4The first I ever loved can still incite such desperation. Betrayal
5lashes the careful stitches, the slight fabric;
6its design undone.
7She would take her switchblade and cut spiders in half --
8a quadrant of scars radiating from her wrists and elbows, she wrote
9      my name in blood,
10let matches flare against the cuts
11small yellow head, searing. I used to operate on myself, she said.
12Separate a triangle of skin and place objects -- silver pin
13heads, glass beads close to the bone.
14A private surgical kit, embroidery scissors, alcohol, fine needles, and
15violet thread; silk, cat whiskers tied in complicated bows. She
16remembers this way, where things are
17where they are buried. We studied history together, this is how we
18      met. Recovering the Roman
19Empire; she draws military disasters in her margins, mail clad
20      horsemen pitching
21violently to the ground, the movement of the cavalry
22a swarm of locusts. Her silver compact slit open, because there are
23       assassins in the narrow hallway;
24her fine pale feet turn to form an arabesque (a delicate
25       design of flowers,
26leaves), furrows in the sheets and mattress,
27pearls. Ropes of black pearls and a black rubber dress -- submerged in
28       the green haze,
29the depths of a nightclub, listening. Submission; she hit his thighs
30       with a chain, a hook in his mouth
31her lips were alluring. Red feather quills, bright red flies. I think of
32      him, brought violently
33to the surface, his tensile body still below the thin edge of the filleting
34      knife
35his slick flesh streaming as he surrenders -- a ceremony of scales and
36      gills, useless to him now,
37as he breathes in and out. She told me once that she was like a
38       scorpion, and I did not listen.
39I let her creep between my fingers, and danger was exotic to me then. I lived
40       somewhere deep
41beyond the coastline, in the crevices of rocks and wood planks,
42her gold hair spins like loose coins, strange and valuable. The
43       currency of nightmares, where
44the sun burns the earth and empties the seas -- there are skeletons, gingerly
45       reaching for night
46night will fall in a rustle of wings, the gentle sweep of the legs of
47       scorpions.


1] Malleus Maleficarum: ‘The Witch Hammer’, a guidebook to the Inquisition on identifying and eliminating witches, by Heinich Kramer and James Sprenger (1486). J.M. Roberts: author of The New Penguin History of the World (1993). Back to Line