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   d a y s    o f    t h e    c r o n e
from Ceremony of Names

--- S U E   S C A L F

is a spinster,
thin, with cold hands
and long fingers,
a Puritan who hates sin
except in her secret heart;
her tongue berates
with trees and wind
and whispers of innuendo.
All that is ripe and warm
she condemns with purplish lips,
pursed and hard.

I see her outside my window, striding, black-shawled and bent, stripping leaves from branches for switches to sting the legs of children or brands to burn witches.

In the blackened garden, she pauses to pray for all that is lean and bare-- closed wombs, closed flowers, the frozen ground in the graveyard; for these she sings a hymn, her voice cracked and tremulous.

Shivering in the snow, she rattles her testament and waits for revelation as for a lover who never appears.

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