London, September 1665
The term “doctor” is
subject to interpretation.
Scythe-beaked, stinking crow,
black wax angel in the doorway,
doused with rose and bergamot,
you wouldn’t know a pustule
from the shiny fever coins
clinking in your pockets.
London’s contract says you’ll
cull the afflicted from the pure,
but everyone looks infected
through blood-tinted lenses,
and no one wants to peer too close
at the conductor shaking his cane
before the keening choir.
Seven thousand a week, coins or corpses,
make your money while you can:
a thick coat and a beak full of incense
won’t save you from this city’s rot.