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 •
Demeter's Fields
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