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THREE POEMS

 

by Tom Holmes

        

                                                                                        

     SIX-FEET UNDER: THE DAY OF MARCH 20TH, 1345

 

On this afternoon occurs the conjunction of Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter, which causes the

Bubonic Plague

 

A cat leaps from one roof

over the street, where people

examine a dead body,

to another roof and defecates.

 

A man with exposed

skinny legs is the second

to be infected. Then the woman

in a wedding dress behind him.

 

In a second-floor window,

an overlooking child closes

and locks window shutters.

This act won’t exempt his suffering.

 

One family places a rose

in the window for good omen.

They soon will burble blood

under a slash of moonlight.

 

All day the sun appeared

to be reflecting time,

and the fleas, jumping

from the dead, were not.

 

The man in the bright, blue

suit and white wig is immune,

and the colony of rats who feed

fleas scurry to a neighboring town.

 

The next noon, those rats present.

March 20th repeats. For a thousand days,

people learn to dig graves

two-and-a-half arms deep.

 

     AN ENGLISH TOWN DURING THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY BUBONIC PLAGUE

 

The yellow sky, with smoke-

breathing dragons descending

like terrorist airplanes on the town’s

navel, is overcast with red clouds.

 

If this was Revelations,

the four horsemen would gallop

across, but it is not

the end of days.

 

It’s worse. People survive.

They pray for curses or conjure

stories of blame. One woman

pushes her babyless baby carriage,

 

a man runs from a giant rat

to the town doctor and his vials

of faith. On the edge

of town, a pink house

 

with purple roof. In the middle,

a house the colors of the sky.

For months, the dragons

and rats circle townsfolk.

 

Prayers and stories revise.

Each day, bloodier skies,

people rot, houses colors

remain, unchanged.

 

A little boy by the canal

releases a leather balloon.

In it is a note to God.

There’ll be no reply.

 

     EXPLAINING AQUA-BLUE TO A CHILD

 

The color of a clean body

of water with hints of green

life swimming below

 

and praying to the surface

air which they may breathe

as they cross the other side.

* * *

For over twenty years, Tom Holmes has been the editor and curator of Redactions: Poetry & Poetics. Holmes is also the author of five full-length collections of poetry, including The Book of Incurable Dreams (forthcoming from Xavier Review Press) and The Cave, which won The Bitter Oleander Press Library of Poetry Book Award for 2013, as well as four chapbooks. He teaches at Nashville State Community College (Clarksville). His writings about wine, poetry book reviews, and poetry can be found at his blog, The Line Break: thelinebreak.wordpress.com/. Follow him on Twitter: @TheLineBreak

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