How I would have loved
to speak of codes and antipodes
with learned minds amid the oak
and pines of Kent with you; as
I recall, you were the cleric, senior
monk with tonsured head and
stoopéd gait that I mistook, most
stupidly for piety.
From dawn to dusk I scribed
your blighted notes that rambled
on loquaciously; you wouldn’t
stay to read or clarify, you had
your rounds among the villagers,
lost souls to save ‘neath petticoats
in haystacks, your long face held
grave as if to prove the earthly
weight of lust was greater than
the trust you hung on me like
shackles wove from brier.
Highwaymen, they say, know best
a naïve spirit when she crosses their
dark path; a weasel, your familiar,
snowy white, they say you saved it
from a trap—no doubt, you did, for
had you not saved thousands over
time from lives of quiet equity to battle
some messiah-like debauchery they
never would have known, if not
for you? I know your bite.
Now the twenty-seventh day
of this dark month has come again;
we stare across a precipice of space
and time; and though I glare, I am
quite safe from you and your
dominions with their lies and
dragon lairs of disappointment.
Seen enough, I’ll tap the final drops
of ink from off this quill and throw the
coded messages I squandered my
good life—and nearly this one too—
to write into the River Brill, ne’ermore
your ayenbite of inwit to uphold.
NOTE: On October 27, 1340, a Benedictine monk named Michael of Northgate completed a book called Ayenbite of Inwit, Kentish (middle English) for Prick of Conscience or Remorse. Literally translated, the title means “again-bite” of “inner knowledge”.
© Elaine Stirling, 2012 (October 27)