Olympe de Gouges Mounts the Scaffold

Autumn. Mists settle, covering
the wrapped bodies in the pit,
composting and kissed by the chemistry of lime.
This is what you knew.
Shivering in November’s chilled glaze, not cold
enough to keep the flies away.
You think of the blood crawling in the gutters
like the pain you wished to send to hell
like the anarchy you believed should live
only and always, always in the heart.

This is what you knew.
That resistance changes colour with the boys’
starched coats, or the patterns
printed and displayed on rue de Montreuil,
that the ambivalence hanging on your birth
could only be resolved
by the insouciant equality of the scaffold.

What else? What else for you, you nothing, you lack,
you hollow ache of a stolen rib?
O children, one day you will know the voiceless composite
of massed and disorderly bones, the fleshless scrabble
of history at your door, voiceless no more.

What wonder is this air opening above you?
What wonder clouds, sun, all a world
you only started knowing. That knowing,
that terrible knowing that boys without a trace of Occitan
to timbre their pronouncements
can only cut to a spray of stars
burning crimson, burning dark
above the streets of Paris.