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Plague Doctor

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.

This poem was originally published under the pen name Gabriel Gadfly.
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