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Remnants Rise/England 1348 by Jeanne Scroggs

"A genuinely stable macro-parasitic pattern
…has rarely existed for long…as periods of
peace and prosperity induced population growth
in excess of macro-parasitic powers of absorption
(i.e., destruction)” -William H. McNeill

A cloud of flea-ridden fleece huddles muddied
beneath a tearing sky, dollops falling
among plain pike men trudging barefoot in
pence-thin plate worn over leather tunics.
Fainting by the way to slip sly into
alleys, the king’s army has become a
ragged, phantom thing, shaking eternal
chains in anger against the goal, so remote,
and the king passing on horseback surveys
the running, charnel lanes thick in purple
bodies with spread and swollen groins, the shuttered
thatched hovels and Green of decaying
dog-chewed souls become his demesne, his sovereign
fist.  Unable to reach out with these dead hands
to seize the world, he ponders the fate of kings
who shot their bolt of backs, when remnants rise
at last able to read writing on the wall.

* from Plagues and Peoples by William H. McNeill

Jeanne Scroggs is a poet, essayist, and artist currently residing in Winterset, IA with her husband Rich. She can be reached at