The Magus

by James Doyle

I summoned flies from the stables
to follow me around,
a buzzing cloud that flirted
with every stray scent
to come down the alleys.

It was a plague year
and I needed protection
from the rumors
that I had a secret ointment
to seal the body’s cracks

against this particular death.
I had the lotion all right,
but not enough
to soothe the entire population
of London, settle them down

like children at bedtime.
There was no one I loved,
no one I owed.
The ointment I rubbed on myself
was my future, the slow

decades it would take
for my flesh to dry completely,
flake off in the grave.
The flies were a curtain
dropped between me

and the corpses in the street,
between me and the live
ones, theirs boils heavy
with dark veins, their limbs
unable to stop dancing.


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