Puritan Roundhead

John Pettie

Puritan Love Song


We know you stole the bonnet from the manger
and wore it into March. No ‘swarthy stranger’
would brave an evening snow as thick as that one
and leave the third king’s gold, Faith Edwards. Satin’s
what Satan hides his second scarlet A with,
so mindful, Constance Woody, what you lay with—
lechery and leprosy are spread
by keeping secrets and by sharing beds.
And you, Chastity Skipwith, you should know
all cleanliness on earth is touch and go,
and more than soles are soiled by solitary walking.
You ought to brush the stickburrs from your stockings
and shake your wicker basket of those petals
you’ve gathered. Preferably over nettles.
A plague on loosestrife, yea, a pox on phlox
and all things purple, ripe, or stippled. Box
all singers on the ear. May rhymers bite
their tongues and bleed. A curse on bells, warm nights,
carmelized sugar, bare feet, shapely pears.
Hang fragrance! (Someplace other than the air.)
Modesty Scroggs: Pink apron? Not our style.
Hope Wilmot, we’ve been counting up your smiles.
And Prudence Young: We’ve noted how you comb
your hair in secret, Sundays, in your room,
yea, how much time you take, and how much pleasure—
your damned hair, Prudence, black beyond all measure.