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How I would have loved

to speak of codes and antipodes

Artist unknown

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)