the following poems reflect the relationship between 12th Century abbess Hildegard von Bingen & her confidant, Richardis von Stade
The Two Nuns
It was within you that I found me
and then I became everywhere,
in a moment you were a magnitude of colors
and we swam and sang and rocked
until our knees crumbled in the cold water.
Within my prayers I kept you safe and wondered how
we’ll grow old in our time, our years of difference,
my grief and your solitary terror of loneliness,
here, I could come home unto you,
pull at your skin until it fit around my bones,
this is how I grew into an old woman
examining death with a small microscope
where under the lens the light grew brighter
and my iris’ became bleached by the sight.
Oh, how I longed
for the tall grass that swept along your ankles
as we dodged fleas and naysayers
and I plucked feathers from your strawberry hair
and met your eyes so carnivorous
that I drank and cured my crisis with a long breathy wail.
Soon after, I took to rubbing glass rosary beads
until they shattered like a most fragile bird,
then you, as you are, appeared in water,
an apparition exhilarating me with fright,
charm floating endlessly through me,
my jaw quenched with subtle flavor,
the epiphany reckons quite easily,
it is, or it isn’t,
we either fall in love or we don’t.
Hildegard Writes to Richardis (Again)
To all the girls I’ve loved before:
The ones with roses for hips
& resin coating the fleshy meat of thighs,
when you leave,
you leave me with a burden in my gums,
a small wafer of exaltation, overreacting, I ache.
Why do you call out my lords name
when you are in the same breath begging for mine?
I move slowly down the path of the righteous,
inching the tunic from your cool shoulders,
the stained fabric drops to the floor
and you release a hymn from the lowest point in your throat.
If skin had been made sacred not before
then here it becomes a relic,
amongst echoes off the mossy walls of the chamber
holy deity or false god, I fumble madly in my worship
I light candles with my tongue,
I light candles with forefinger, middle, and ring,
I collect your sweat to wear in a vial around my neck,
if only to punish myself in your honor.
Nic Alea is a queer writer with a fellowship from the Lambda Literary Foundation and was voted one of SF Weekly’s “Best Writers without a Book.” Nic has work featured in journals such as Muzzle Magazine, the Paris American, decomP, Reservoir, BOAAT, and others. Originally from California, they currently live in Narrm/Melbourne, Australia.