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SYPHILIS DIARIES: NINE FRAGMENTS/ Pamela Moore i. Elizabeth: a sailor's wife The Spaniards arriving in that septentrional part ofAmerica, about the latitude ofFlorida, soon got taint ofthis Disease, and after a year or two ofroving there, in 1494, they returned home wellfrought with this Indian Commodity^ i see the blackbird guarding the road how he sings away other wings from his twelve-stride length of hedge and behind in the grasses happy his mate duties bits of straw, maybe even my own flown hairs into a fine nest on Friday, i imagine he'll bring cinnamon sticks, and a dog, flat faced and small enough for my lap when i sit at the fire let him bring a piece of whalebone, smooth and white as my teeth, carved with a cunning E and Saturday after market, i gift Blind Peter at the door of the chapel with a small copper coin, another lights a candle for the virgin let him be here soon, sea—wash him in, let him come so soon now, soon, i am waiting, i am—, bring him whole and still wearing the braided ring ofmy hair and i walk again, again to the docks holding to the edge of the world * All quotes taken from The History and Mystery of the Venereal Lues, a tract authored in 1673 by E. Maynwaring, who claimed to be an authority on the (relatively ) new disease that came to be known as syphilis. 124 · The Missouri Review ii. her husband Columbus' soldiers at their returnfrom discovering the Western World, brought it thence into Spain; who upon their arrival were dispatched away to Naples (being then besieged by the French) did propagate this venereous evil amongst the Italian Women; and that they spread it amongst the French, in whose army it raged veryfiercely before the morning of our second night, i pour as she rinses her hair in the white basin the water is cold, her gasp like a love-cry—shocked at how the familiar still surprises i'll carry her—parting the tangled silk with a bone comb from Madrid, her long fingers winging around her crown— inside my eye, and behind a small mole on my left breast my sex smells her breasts, some flowers and oil i want to swallow their brown eyes, and the three freckles that whirl in a constellation on the ridge of her chin to please me, she strips, as if a sailor, to the waist and washes me while her breasts nudge like puppies at my face and neck; she comes to the bed naked and does not shy behind her hands two nights until the legion waits at dawn, before going i trace the blades of her sleeping shoulders to find the remnants of wings iii. Elizabeth doubtless the Husband could not lie with his Wife so long together but both must be infected i saw it again after so long when he stepped out of his pants and it rose proud as a schoolboy who leaps from his chair with a bright answer—so pretty even birds would want to perch there, twine a nest in the springy hair—when i bathed Pamela Moore The Missouri Review · 125 him after love, it spiked new as a bulbed lily in the oaken tub I tapped it with a finger and it bobbed and rolled like a well trimmed ship between swells before righting itself again to home next morning i lay late in the sheets still warm with his body, and heard the door closing in the gray light iv. a prostitute the [Neapolitans] being distressedfor provisions, eased themselves ofsome oftheir superfluous women such as were over-ridden and notably seasoned with the Indian Itch, and sent them into the besieger's camp, where they were entertained as welcome variety i was born here, and sure, my mother was a paid woman i never doubted i'd lie on my back for bread to each other we named ourselves Magdalenes, daydreamed some sweet jesus would smell beauty in the crushed lavender flowers we pressed to our breasts, save us with the thinnest wedding band truth is i liked my late...


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