Brigget Bishop’s Last Words to Samuel Shattuck, the Dyer – Salem, June 1692
I brought you linen thread
looped out of line
into sundry peeces of lace—
Edgings for a dress was all.
Collar to color, to frame my face.
I did not know lace would be my marke.
I wanted more than dormant
sheep’s fleece, more than sky gone
winter drab, fringed wings of battered moths.
I wanted my hem indigo, like the bay’s
swales and crumpled winds.
(I wanted to be a bereft sailor’s harbor.)
You accuse my lace of wickedness—
too short, not fit for any uce.
I only wanted threshed flax threads
reddened with carmine and mordant.
But you do that Devil’s work—
the chosen hue fixing God’s material.
Your carmine color comes from the female
cochineal, a bug bound for life to one
nopal cactus while the male flies away.
I am not surprised the cochineal pulses
red acid through her abdomen.
I am not surprised that Spanish fleets slash seas
and seize the new world to prey
on wingless crimson insects that dye
our costumes with their bodies.
Like a shield, I wear my lacy bodice
the color of John’s orchard under
moon-encumbered fear. He said he saw
the red Devil and me. He said we shook
the trees, felled his ripe apples to the ground.
He said I flew away.
Header photo by Olga Engar, courtesy Shutterstock.