French midwives, fortune-tellers and poisoners
of the late 17th century

They tickled the gills
of death-cups and stinkhoms
and pestled the poison
from hemlock and bracken,

then up the stairs
to gab incantations
and raddle their hands
in raw labour rooms,

back to the raking stewpot
to brew some little heart-block
with a soupçon of hallucination
for husbands of wives with patience,

apothecaries bleeding wild cherries,
to cripple him more: false hellebore;
finish the deed with broiled jimsonweed.

Their hands were still fragranced
with cocklebur mulch
when the molten poker
put holes through the palms,

their hands were lopped off
and dropped to the cobbles,
they kindled like twin torches
in the nightshaded Place de Greve.