The Nit Pickers

by Ann Drysdale

After Rimbaud

When the child, with his reddened, throbbing brow,
Longs for the vague dreams in whose peace it pales,
Two stately sisters tiptoe to his bed
With fragile hands and silver fingernails.

They sit him down beside an open window.
A mass of flowers perfumes the fresh air.
Dew falls on him. Gentle and purposeful,
Thin fingers wander through his heavy hair.

He listens to their breathing; tentative,
All honey, herbs and roses. Hears the hiss
That interrupts it; spittle captured by
A pouting lip — an interrupted kiss.

He hears their lashes swish through scented silence.
Their busy fingers gently creep and pause
To infiltrate his indolence with clicking
As tiny lice expire between their claws.

Liquor of laziness goes to his head,
Sweet, sighing sound threatens to get him high;
And oh, those slow caresses make him feel
The rise and fall of a desire to cry.

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