Gemma Bristow, writer

Journal of the Plague Year

There are no maxims,
no theorists enrolled here;
I can only write the absolute,
which was death.
The earth drank flesh
like a sea-bed pierced,
and the sky was full of wings —
death sat in the cup of each candle, each star,
death sat picking at the bones
like the most exalted guest.
The sky frowned and the earth frowned
and flesh was crushed between them.
That was how it was.
For figures, for the names
of the illustrious, you may peruse
the other chroniclers.

In this house, we only noted
that the only absolute was death —
the only thing that did not need
to be counted, named, defined, or justified.
It sat upon our shoulders
and in its dreadful weight
we could feel all the sins of men.
The print of its claws
has been pressed into the bone.
Our bells are numbed by duty;
their music now is but a shadow
flailing weakly after God.