The Debt I

Affliction bought her life: a shelling skin
On scalp, hands, feet, knees,
Red on the body, hectic flesh too hot and thriving.

Yet of disposition quiet, not
Irascible from pain, but
Calm, warm, sweet voice, selfless and concerned
With an anxiousness by us unearned.

It waited then, her life, biding time
Until a cure seemed imminent.
A tiny thing beguiles, is sly
But seems innocent
As coin in the palm,
As friendly as the doctor's eye.

So, reassured she took it in,
Every week counting,
And let them with their bloodletting,
Their cupping and their leeching.
It ate her from within,
An incremental, eating thing
Multiplied unseen
For outwardly there was no sign
And all the raw blooms paled and healed
On scalp, hands, feet, knees - descaled
Until her touch was soft and clean.

She was pleased, relieved,
And the doctors gratified.
When she died that afternoon -
Her forfeit paid to all those lives
Consumed by fire when she was young,
Their metaphor her burning skin,
Her life reprieved
By overdrive -

She did not know she bore
Her wergild
In medals weeping for a battle won,
Was unaware
She failed to pay her gold,
The daily offering of flesh, in shedding skin,
And adding to her life's sum
By trusting in a cure
Only made Fate severe -
Draw a line in the Register
Take back what was on loan
The credit column reconciled in bone.
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