Being Bertalda

by Angela France

I can do scared witless, I said,
anxious or rank fear, it’s your call.
My hands a-flutter to my head,
my knees collapse me to a crawl,
my eyes show white, my mouth reforms
to scream. But that won’t do, he says
my lips should purse so fear transforms
a vulgar gape to one who prays
piously for relief. He drapes
a heavy cross around my waist,
suggests one pretty foot escapes
my dress. He says I should be chaste
but he’s a man so here’s my breast,
its response to fear? Be undressed.


Theodore von Holst, Bertalda Frightened by Apparitions


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