Midwife's Progress

by Joy Marchand

White volto half mask,
osteoporotic hunchback draped
with the stole and chain of office,
an old village midwife refusing to bend
has always angered people on a molecular level.
As she dances, wild, they count their shadowed steps.

The sorcerer philosopher comes to the village green
and says, 'I am different. Let this not upset you,'
carries the quintessence in the pommel of his sword.
He has known himself, not Biblically, but Socratically
thinks of himself as a 'live and let live', 'seek thou
personal excellence,' 'I'm ok, You're ok,' kind of guy.

King of the lecture hall, the philosopher whips the strop,
sharpens up the bone saws and tickles the four humours,
of learned men laboring to locate wandering wifely wombs.
'Purify yourselves from ye olde medicina antiqua,' says he
in his white volto half mask, his stole and chain of office.
'Her wicked purse is there for those with eyes to see.'

Naked in the street, the midwife hides her hairy handbag,
takes her withered apples in hand, those crepuscular dates,
remembering the magus, saturnine and imperial in the dark alley.
'Don't cry,' he said, 'Or I'll give you something to cry about.
Go, and dream of lobster collops, blooming lotus flowers.
Ply your shears and pennyroyal in the twilight.'

Though it is her stole he flaunts, her chain of office, her scepter
and his new philosophy--like the passage of eons--threatens
to tarnish the tender splendor of this her ancient regalia,
the midwife luxuriates in the breeze on her hump,
the memory of shame in the whites of his eyes,
his quintessence cold jelly at her feet.

Joy Marchand holds a B.A. in Classical Studies from the University of the Pacific. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts, where she takes photos of odd signs, churchyards and the occasional roadside shrine. Joy's poems and short stories have been featured in Polyphony 5, Interfictions, Apex Digest, and Interzone, among others. She is currently at work on a road novel set on Route 66. Her favorite fruit is the strawberry (the ones so ripe on the vine they squish when you try to pick them). For more on Joy's love of the strawberry, read her short story "A Secret Life of Gluttony" in Talebones #36. Visit her website here.

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