Long thought wrongly to be Turkish for turban
but as it was fashionable in the Ottoman Empire
to put tulips on turbans perhaps the translator
was confused having gone astray in alleys of Ordu
or Constantinople, where the flower had long been
popular. Ladies in the garden at Augsburg thieving
pollen, augment! Barges bright on the Zuyder Zee
komen fill your holds with these immortal tubers:
each species well-recorded in these colored plates.
Pompeius de Angelis! Lipsius of Ledyan! You
middle classes of Amsterdam and Hoorn: a silver
drinking cup, two grey horses & three tons of butter
for one rare bulb of Semper Augustus, the very same
a Harlaam sailor was deposed for plucking
thinking it an onion, some relish for his herring.
The record quotes one Margaret Arnold. Your Honor:
Myself I saw the children swallow bees, then vomit
crook’d pins two-penny nails, splinters & a vile froth
On her pillow we found cakes of feathers large
as crown pieces, placed in a curious order.
(Making radii, your Honor—)
a star-shaped onion, some bewitched pigs, a mouse
that thrown into the fire shrieked like any whelp
(the maid-servant—was she deposed?)
Their wives having transformed themselves into cats were burned forthwith.
They kept a careful record of the names.
Cherry Ripe! Cherry Ripe! Ripe I cry,
Full and fair ones
Come and buy
London Hospital 187—
My Dearest Zee,
I keep a record of their faddish songs:
The aforementioned Cherry Ripe was a plague
lasting near nine-month. Young men & old,
wives & widows, maid servants, were all alike musical
fishermen, loose women, all the idle in town—
My dear, the popular humors of this great city
are a constant source of amusement to me
whose sympathies are amenable enough
to embrace this madness though I be refined.
The ice bathes having failed, they try a sugar cure
In Paris is kept with great care a thorn
nail-clippings mulberry Christ’s tears bottled
& on the street they’ll sell you hanks of hair
toe bones encased in their own small coffins.
Come and buy!
(happy is the sinner)
Astray in Naples shreds of garment from the luckless
Masaniello, a fisherman raised high by mob favor
then shot like a mad dog, spat on & quartered
by & by he was unburied & arrayed in royal robes
his poor torso, at least, and the village women
later tore his wooden door off its hinges
( Z, the fisherman—was he?)
Amy Beeder is the author of Burn the Field (CMU Press, 2006) and Now Make An Altar (2012). A recipient of an NEA Fellowship, a “Discovery”/The Nation Award, James Merrill Residence, Bread Loaf Scholarship, and Witness Writers Award, she has also worked as a creative writer instructor, legal writer, freelance reporter, political asylum specialist, high-school teacher in West Africa, and an election and human rights observer in Haiti and Suriname.