Plague Doctors

What we need
is plague doctors.

Oh, you laughed, in the garden,
during summer,
a bloom hanging from every branch and stem.
You tossed your head back, showing perfect teeth--
the same ones that fall out now
in your sleep and in your tea.

I am not popular.
I admit it, and grow even less so now
for having been correct.
We need plague doctors, and where are they?
Where are the students, the masters, the institutions
that could have turned them out
where caution and courage intersect?

Very well, I'm the girl
for the job, and damn the looks I'll get
from the upscale ladies whose smiles 
are meant to suck the fight from their perceived lessers.
Hear how they cough now,
how their buboes distress them
causing cancellation of their little dinners
in favor of charlatans with vestments and censers.

I am the one.
I am your only hope.
See how winter has taken hold, and the dogs eat
your unburied glassy-eyed girlfriends.
A beak stuffed with spice and roses helps me to endure
the stench of you, and your kiss
as I save you so that you'll owe me
in the spring, or lie blue as the gentians.


hedgewitch said…
Poems like this are like mental whiplash, except as revealing and fascinating as they are sudden and uncomfortable--each image just cracks the mental vertebrae, a permanent flash behind the eyes, and asks to be a keepsake of the ruins of the heart, the times, the world. I especially love how each stanza ends on a killer couplet, and that perfect line break between 'dogs eat'/'your unburied...' Only you could write something like this Shay.
Sioux Roslawski said…
Shay--Too many phenomenal lines to cut and paste here. One I especially love is the "suck the fight" line.

I still wonder: HITH do you do it?
grapeling said…
damn, this is good ~
Sherry Blue Sky said…
I love "a beak stuffed with spice....helps me to endure." And then those stunning blue gentians.
Maude Lynn said…
This is truly exceptional.
Kerry O'Connor said…
Phew! This is a chilling view of a post-plague world, or post-summer. It is a cold world in which sickness thrives, and plague doctors few and far between.
Cloudia said…
"damn the looks I'll get
from the upscale ladies whose smiles
are meant to suck the fight from their perceived lessers.
Hear how they cough now,"

let it ALL out Shay. But who really gives a shit about them?