“...A concoction of aconite, yew, caustic lime, arsenic, bitter almonds, and
powdered glass. Mixed with honey, it was made into pills the size of walnuts.”
—Andrew Wallace Hayes,
Principles and methods of toxicology

Suspicion was first to die, gone peacefully in its sleep:
and by your design, no one suspected foul play, that
      you might have slipped something in its soup.

Therefore, at its funeral, I failed to notice that
you fed me straight lines, peeling them like grapes,
      while there are no straight lines about you.

I swallowed them all, chill and smooth, like lodestones
slipping south between taut spine and sternum,
      never snagging on the odd vertebra

or rational thought—was paralyzed by the narcotic mix
of honeyed words you poured in my ear as I stood sleeping,
      a slow, unnoticed bitterness coating my throat.

Such palliative dreams to follow: honeysuckle and hazel,
the old balms, their tangle and fragrant coma as if
      anything here could grow. A ship approaches;

you needn’t lie about the color of its sails.
Already I have absolved you of all your sins, even
      the blackest things you’ve done at the river’s source.

(second place winner, Vallum Award for Poetry 2011; first appeared in Vallum 9:1)