nthposition online magazine

Last words 1666 & Talking to tourists

by Jessica Slentz

[ poetry - may 08 ]

Last words, 1666

The first casualty of the London Fire was of a maid in the household of Thomas Farynor, baker to King Charles 11 - in whose house the fire began.

Look at these nails. Black creeping
from the tips in, trailing soot

tendrils, pale fingers gone gray
and hot. Bloated. This is not how

I remember them. They were strong. They learned
to kneed and baste, roll breads, pastries, (play

pat-a-cake). I can smell the flours now -
millet, malt, bulgar, oat - a wretched

vulgar stench of rotting flesh and sugar
glaze. The oak staircase has gone

aflame. They told me to climb through the casement,
scale the thatch like a common thief.

as fast as you can

I will not leave. When they learn
to make paper from ash, the headlines will read

'Baker's maid afraid to climb.' They do not see
these fingers, hands, the creeping black cradling

my arms. They do not know what they were meant to rock,
hear your heartbeat fading next to mine.

roll it pat it and mark it with B

 

Talking to tourists

We'll keep our tops on, thank you,
giving knowing grins as if we would

(when we were older) maybe. If you asked us
yesterday, what was in these mausoleums, you'd hear

yesterday tales of pale immortals, teeth trickling
blood and bourbon, the un-dead, unburied. Underground

there's nothing. We'd wrap ourselves in camp-smoke
and mosquitos. But today - A sulfur stained Gomorrah?

All our finger-sifted ash runs corse and warm,
grandmothers choke back sea-water

tears. Watch the rivulets of waste by your wheels
and wonder 'Did we drink this way before?'

What lies there: legends of your own retelling,
salt statues and blues and mildew, ocean-slime,

But wait! A creeping green - these the rumors of rebirth.
The un-dead newly paled and washed out with the tide.