The Iowa Review

During the Middle Ages


O God I am so fat I cry all the time A kitten scrubbed with a toothbrush online makes me sob I’m so heartless seven species of bees Are now endangered and I didn’t do a thing Didn’t even send any money To anybody doing any good And I can’t lose any weight I skipped yoga I’m so hot all the time so broke So pathetic no wise investment­s Should’ve bought a 7-Eleven on a busy corner When I was seven or eleven Nobody wants to lick my neck Nobody wants to hold my hand at the doctor’s office Nobody to grow old with me I’m so crabby To pluck my beard feed the cat I don’t have And read me endless Russian novels at night All the ones I still haven’t got to so greatly depressing Where are you handsome? Are you Driving in your car to come visit me Bringing a bottle of wine and a present so gallant? A new translatio­n of Akhmatova? I love it! No? Well, I guess it’s better than living In the real Middle Ages when Some shithead priest threatens you with hell To pocket your last coin and there’s no Tylenol So you have to suck on some skullcap seeds And knights race around knocking you down To take your maidenhood with pointy lances And you have to work as a midwife with no birthing tub Nobody washes their hands or votes Nobody knows about DNA or PMS or NASA There’s nothing to read even if you can read Except boring doctrines or Spiritual Exercises By Gertrude the Great, I’m not even kidding Yes, there’s Dante Chaucer and some sagas But it’s not like you’d get near those books You’d be lucky to have some jerk recite

The latest by Wulfstan the Cantor by campfire Just before he beheads your uncles And forces you to rub salve on his abs You know you’d be sweating in a field at twenty-two Dying from your tenth pregnancy by the bailiff Courtly love? Not a lot of it I bet Some doctor would drill a hole in my head To let the demons out because I’d be full Of Black bile as I am today It would be a very hard time When the sun revolves around the earth And kings are just unbelievab­ly selfish And it’ll be a really long time before Pop Art And meerkat videos and cotton candy And sexting and fish tacos and girl bands Everything’s just so bad and you have buboes Hopefully I’d get shoved into a nunnery To have some ecstatic experience with mystical Jesus Or better I could be a hardcore samurai Laying down justice on the heads of corrupt lords But that was tough work, dirty work You’re working for nobility who at any period In history are the worst people in the world And to be an unemployed ronin had to bite Sunday afternoons no mom around to make you soup Even if all the brothel ladies want to scrub your back Sometimes you just want a nice nap And some Neosporin on your wounds, ah If only I could be like the divine Sei Shonagon ¯ Resplenden­t in silks with seven-layered sleeves Writing in my room about politics and my lovers I wish, okay, I could be her servant Tidying her papers and fluffing her pillow But even she found many hateful things About living in the middle ages Like crying babies messy guests and mansplaine­rs So irritating even way back then You better shut up and take your medicine

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