HOW TO READ THE DECAMERON


It’s all about Love –

sly, trickster, ravenous love;

lust (moved Day Ten to forbearance

or peaceful restraint).

 

You must understand

they’re avatars, courtly

yet coursing with hormones:

three rich boys, seven lady-girls

 

said to be Virtues

but red-lipped and flesh-bound:  

besieged by the Black Death;

fled to a faerie landscape

 

countering piled corpses,

suppurating sores, the stench

of pus from cloaked forms

stumbling cobbled lanes,

 

with dainty sweetmeats

set feasts by fountains

gay barcaroles.  We know plague

better now: how it upends

 

expectations, extends

fingers of fear through cracks

and corners, turns beings to beasts

from quenched hope.

 

Half their town’s defunct –

mothers, brothers, dukes

and clans swept away.  Carts

trundle streets, stacked


with white bundles --

yet the group chuckles at lying friars

arrogant judges dumped in shit-ditches;

dunderheads, numbskulls, fleeced,

 

swozzled, turned upside down;

wives clapped balls to buttocks

leaning on barrel staves.

What then, of the ending?

 

Casually, tales done, they

abandon their Garden

return to a charnel-world,

untouched by fright.

 

By force of dance and laughter

charmed skies stay clear.

Their vaccine is story –

shared discourse of bawdy

 

deceptions, hot couplings,

transcendent friendship --  

blithe band of humans

lambent in amber,

 

salved by community:

bearing sealed ampoules of joy.




Version first published in Mobius, Vol. 32 No. 2 (Summer 2021)