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.

 

  

  

Ellie A. RogersEllie A. Rogers writes in St. Paul, Minnesota. She is a poetry editor at The Hopper. You can read her recent work in The Cincinnati Review, Cold Mountain Review, and Ecotone, or at elliearogers.com.
 
 
 

Header photo by Olga Engar, courtesy Shutterstock.

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