By Alison Croggon

Visions of the world's surface

First Vision

tv antennae rake carnivorous angel dislocate jangling arms heart chimes the clock measures sarcomas bulge the flickering heads of saints nothing more alive than this moment

Second Vision

I have savaged my skin I have slept in the shadows of rotting architectures eyes backward in my head I see deep into hell I divine the salt taste squamous on mylips I pluck the neon fruits germinating over this lying city I hold myself regretless and yet my hands punish me bristle in the tarmac to splinter my ramparts I flew into the nucleus of the sun and eyes burned out the fumigants await me with their cheap smiles earth old and full of her rebellion seeds swell under fingernails I am florescent again the rose of leprosaria

Third Vision

heart bends the weight of everything I have forgotten lingering in the stink of God's breath my deathly Father walk where I am forbidden and birds speak to me darklytongues of flame I am the black blood breaking under the scourge I write this only because I am told flame bursts over the page and dessicates hands to ash how many chimneys have called how many bones how many pyres consumed how many how many voices I am not these words I am nothing I am not I am a name

Fourth Vision

no nothing never not because I am the axeman skulks in the sad carolling of foreign birds I was not the death of myself so much as the agony of beginning

Fifth Vision

perceive how the light splices the frost trees collect themselves saints depart from their niches childsight vanishes desire I have slept in my stench faint as an echo on the skin of night

Sixth Vision

might have been a voice but I negated my own possibilities the owl springs out of my mind she has abandoned me wakes between the night and the incurable hurts in the spaces by despair she extrudes huge wings and departs twilight is impassible my senses vanish I am the sweetness left by god in the inimitable desert where stones never weep all beginnings and all endings whoever waits has no face and I am lost I have been mortal once again there is nothing to save me

Of Margery of Kempe I

[T]he husband is his wife's head, to rule her, correct her (if she strays) and restrain her (so she does not fall headlong). For hers is a slippery and weak sex, not to be trusted too easily. Wanton woman is slippery like a snake and mobile as an eel; so she can hardly beguarded or kept within bounds. Some things are so bare that there is nothing by which to get hold of them. . . . so it is with woman: roving and lecherous once she has been stirred by the devil's hoe.

THIS CREATURE                                    where thorw she lost reson and her wyttes
          a long tym
                                        setting all
hyr trost, alle hyr lofe, and alle hyr affeccyon in hym only
                                                                  he comawnded hyr and charged hir
that sche shuld wryten her felyngys
                                                                                               the creature cryed often

[his eyn myssed so that he mygth not see
                           to make hys [hyr] lettre he set
                                                                                   a peyr of spectacles on hys nose]

                                                       ANNO DOMINE 1436

[and then yet it was wretyn fyrst be a man whech cows neithyr wel wryten]

she had a thyng in conscyens whech sche had nevyr schewyd

                                                                                                             THIS CREATURE
went owt of hir mende
                                                       she knew no vertu ne goodnesse
sche bot hir owen hand so vyolently
               and also sche roof her skin       wyth her nayles spetowsly

syttyng upon her beddys syde lokying upon hir
                                                                                                     how the eye openyd
as brygth as ony levyn and he stey up into the eyr             fayr and esly
that sche mygth wel beholdyn hym in the eyr til it was closyd ageyn

[sche wold not leevyn hir pride ne hir pompows aray
gold pypys on hir hevyd

Of Life's Mys(t)eries

no wound so deep as the mind

                                   through menstrual stains to the brittle
skins of
              it cracks they is
                                                  dry as dead
                      paper                                           husks

you write
              you write up
                                                                             you mouth
                                   the bad taste blood you


                                                                             the shattered
                                                 skeleton the ripped
                                   vagina the
burned bone the rotting brain the gashed slitted cracked slashed
              of wrong sex
                     so many words
said uttered      lipped
                                                                             fleshening circles of
                                   being and
in the cockeyed courtroom amid the testesments these
                                                 have HAVE BEEN HAD
              have fallen like soft petals sweet
                                                 candied rosepetals decorative as grief as
                     swallowable as tears as liminal as any
howlscriesbellowsululationsgroanswailsshrieksroarsbaysyelpssobsscreams         keening
                             lamentations                break
                                   lips red lips red lips red
hands red breasts blue nails black teeth how digestible how they oil the
economies remain in
visible     holeabsentsweetnothings


The Unknown Language

ENGLISH                           LATIN                    LINGUA IGNOTA

Man                                                 Homo                             Whose
God                                                  Deus                               Mouth
Sin                                                    Labia                              Kisses
Angel                                              Angelus                         Wholly
Language                                       Hymen                           Without
Reason                                            Logos                              Fear
Rationality                                     Ratio                               Is
Trinity                                             Uno                                 Luminous
Lust                                                  Desiderio                       Delight
Devil                                                Diabolo                           Laughing
Ignorance                                       Defututa                         Through
Master                                             Magister                         Darkly
Nature                                             Natura                            Wounded
Faith                                                 Fidelis                             Fingers

Of Margery of Kempe II

alle hir desyr was for to be worshepd of the pepul

                                                                and was on of the grettest brewers in the town
the ale was lost]

                                                                                    summe seyden sche was acursyd

                                                                            WERE WROTH WITH HIR

                                                             sche herd a sownd of melodye so swet and delectable

the dette of matrimony was so abhomiably to hir that sche had levar
               etyn and dryken the mukke in the chanel
punschyn and chastysyn hemself wylfully be absteyning

                                                              he used her as he had do before

he wold not spar

Having once tasted the spirit, she held as nothing all sensual delights until one day she remembered the time when she had been gravely ill and had been forced, from necessity, to eat meat and drink a little wine

                                                                                    he leyd beforn this creatur
the snar of letchery and in al this tyme sche had no lust to comown wyth
her husbond              in the second year yt fel so that a man whech sche
            lovyd wel seyd onto her                 he wold ly be hir
and have hys lust of hys body                                  and sche schuld not withstand him
and evyr sche was labowred wyth the other man for to syn wyth hym
sche was ovrycoym             and consentyd in her mend
and he seyd he ne wold
                                             schamyd and confusyd in hirself

boldly clepe me Jhesus thi love for I am thi love and schal be thi love
wythowtyn ende

this creature
                                           hir dalyawns was so swet that sche
gret plenté of terys       boystows sobbyngys        mornyggys and wepyngys


Mary speaks for herself

When you say your visions when you wake from sweat with the spearsdisgracing your entrails
You imagine me robed in blue with my face erased
And then the intolerable energy of stars in their expanding void
You leave my body beyond your sight
So only your moving lips can understand it
For I am like nothing which has been seen I am like everything
Forget the odium of comparisons I am
Quotidian and unique invisible and illuminated with the fingertips of despairing angels
Who forget heaven although they keep its photographs in their pockets
Dead gods suck at my every pore their mouths huge with oblivion
And within my skin a helium laughter
The sun playing on all my moving surfaces
That hurt your eyes when you open under your hair
You imagine a burning babe at my breast
And he too is laughing his ruddy body incandescent with mirth
You imagine the evergreen and covetous wings of birds of paradise
And slow petals of dawn exhaling predatory forests
And insolent rock quaking open and shut
You imagine my womb the sea's impersonal darkness
Its populations of gut and fang and cold luminous lures
And its glowing coils of poisonous stone extruded from the heart
You imagine my breasts cusped by your longings
As my radiance dissolves your flesh and throws skeletal shadows
Over your lost faces
While I hold your hand in my two human hands
And bring it to my mouth

Margery of Kempe III

In vehemence of spirit, almost as if she were inebriated, she began to loathe her body when she compared it to the sweetness of the Paschal Lamb and, with a knife, in error cut out a large piece of her flesh which, from embarrassment, she buried in the earth. Inflamed as she was, however, by the intense fire of love, she did not feel the pain of her wound

                                                                                                            the prest whech wrot this boke

thei were ryche men, worshepful marchawntys and haddyn gold enow
                         (whech may spede in every nede)                               rewth that mede
                                                                                                                                      schuld spede
                                                                                                    er than trewth

                              God has nowhere to put his goodness, if not in me

thei wer most displeysyd

                                       they cutted her gown so schort that it come but lytil
                                       sche schuld ben holdyn a fool

ther is no gyft as holy as the gyft of lofe

and sumtyme yf sche sey a man had a wownde er a best whethyr it wer
               er yyf a man bett a childe befor hir
                              er smet a hors er another best wyth a whippe
hir thowt sche saw owyr Lord be betyn er wowndyd
                                                                  lyk as sche saw in the man er in the best

this creature
                               summe seyd it was a wikkyd spiryt       sum seyd it was a sekenes
                               sum seyd sche had dronken to mech wyn
                               sum wuld she ben in the se in a bottumless

more ful of wowndys than evyr was duffehows of holys                            wondyrfully
turnyng and wrestyng her body

                                                                                          alas, alas for sorwe

sche wept                                   sche sobbyd             sche cryed so lowde

summe seyden that thei wold not go wyth hir for an hundryd pound

                                      the cawse of hys malyce was for sche would not obeyn him

my derworthy dowtyr I schal nevyr forsakyn the

      and yyf sche sey a semly man sche had gret peyn to lokyn on hym

the manhode of Crist

Dance of the Seven Veils

FIRST                 she is humble and unworthy
                                                            she dare not
                                                                                          she is diseased
her eyes dilate her fingers bleed her mouth simmers with juice
                                          she cannot
contain herself she spills
                                                            modestly into the word
                                          contingent as a virus
                                                                      in the corpse of god

SECOND           she locks her mouth
               fast on the mouth of a man
                                                            his pen rivers her blood
over the margins
                                          of god's book

THIRD                  she is an ear
wet with song she is a cunt swollen
          with god's glory she is an eye
blistered with light she is skin
                                          split by goading kisses she
                              is a stomach parched
               to ecstasies she rakes off
                                                            her hair she is
the pure sex tolling
                                          through cavities of blood

FOURTH            she understands
               how walls melt
                                          in desire's conflagration

FIFTH                    she sees her lover
               perfected in death
rising to take her
                                          perfectly unbodied
               in his bloodied mouth
his dessicated skin
                                          pearls and floods
with the salty waters
                                                            of her many tongues

SIXTH                      she is cast
                                          into her freedom
               her voice infects
the cloistered ear
                                                            her tumescence
                                      returns she sleeps
                                                            slimed with sweat her tears
                                          o'erspill the nightmare chalice
               her lips rot her hands blaze with putrefaction her stink
                                                            fills the chapel with penitents
                                      she is all parasite ingesting her own juices
                                          her belly bloats and ulcers
                                                                                with the fruit of god
she cries love
                                      in the crowded streets
               she is untouchable

SEVENTH             she burns
                                          on the pyre built
                                          letter on letter
                                          by god's faithful servants

                                      her blood boils
                                      her eyeballs burst
                                      her bones crack and char

                                      at last
                                      in god's great darkness

Of Margery of Kempe IV

Ah! Lord God! Who has written this book? I in my weakness have written it, because I dared not hide the gift that is in it.

sche nevyr tellyn how swet it wern                                    many white thyngys

               sweche sowndys and melodiis                              the fyer of love brennyng
                                          voys of a lityl bird that song ful merily

thu schalt heryn that thu nevyr herdist               thu schalt felyn
                                                            thu plesyn me so wel
                                                             I am alwey plesyd with the

thu mayest boldly when thu art in thi bed
                              take me to the as thi wedded husbond
                                                                                    as thi derworthy derlyng and thu mayest
boldly                kyssen my mowth
                                                                                     my lofe is evyr redy to the
ne thu can han no other comfort but me only
                              whech am I
                                          thi God
                                                            and am al joy and al blysse to the

To read the accompanying essay Specula: Mirrors from the Middle Ages

To read the interview with Alison Croggon.