DESCRIPTION

She built
stone walls, wattle fences,
a house as large as she needed,
as small as no orphan could find.
Her bed was sewn from leaves of palm
and stuffed with the wings of owls.

She dreamed
of broken doors,
pools of yellow glass,
treetops bright with fire
and horses with sapphire wings.

She loved
many and none too well:
apothecary,
housemaid,
an elderly master of hounds,
the bishop’s paramour,
the oldest prince,
the fisherman’s second son.
One smelled of onions,
another of Chinese herbs.
She wrote their names
on acorns and lettuce leaves
and fed them to the squirrels.

She wore
an attic’s trunk of clothes:
a linen cassock gone to rust,
motley, silk, a cape of feathers,
the neat homespun of a tidy wife.
Her shoes were red
and filled with leaves.

She lived
on walnuts, oranges,
potatoes and wild greens;
she drank beer from a hundred cellars
and wine from the skull
of a heretic hung in chains.

Her table
was set with porcelain from the East,
brass vases of lilac and nettle,
tallow candles in silver candlesticks,
Venetian glasses, gourd spoons,
fish knives carved from sailors’ bones.

She named
her children after bones:
Vomer whose father had followed the plow,
Sacrum who left her and ran away to sea.
Humerus did laugh well and long,
but Scapula became a whore.
Ulna wed a farrier;  Ischium kept goats;
Patella, her darling, wove linen cloth.
Talus and his goodwife grew apples and pears
and Fibula, who could heal with herbs,
was burned for being a witch.

Her gods
required sacrifice
of cabbages and blood,
the bodies of mice and toads.

She played
a goat-horn pipe
and a seven-stringed harp.
She sang dirges to the trees
and carols to the moon.

She buried
dead robins
under willows
and kept red worms
in an iron pot.

She never
learned to dance.

When she was old,
her death
grew easy.
The crows and foxes
carried her all away.

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