blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1



The Starving Time, Jamestown, 1610*

Only the moon saw him lick blood
From snow beneath the palisade, hold
Crystals to his lips like a priest
Steadying a chalice of wine.

Only the candle twisting on its wick
Saw him hook the pot over flames,
Lean over his wife with a knife
As if to kiss her on the table.

Nothing could cure his hunger.
He opened her belly the way his father
Cut through feathers of sick chickens
Outside their house in Gloucestershire.

He bundled the fetus in deerskin,
Sank it with stones through a hole
Chopped with an axe in the James River.
An owl hooted like a drowsy rooster.

With only flames as witnesses
He boiled pieces of her for the supper
He knew might be his last,
Then stared at grease on his hands

And asked the fire's ash: How else
Could I build God's paradise
In this frozen swamp? How else
Could our divided bodies become one?  


*Some of the first settlers in Jamestown, Virginia, resorted to cannibalism during what became known as The Starving Time. This incident is based on an account given by a settler George Percy in his brief history: A True Relation of the proceedings and occurrents of moment which have hap'ned in Virginia from the time Sir Thomas Gates was shipwrack'd upon the Bermudes, anno 1609, until my departure out of the country, which was anno Domini 1612.

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