The Ballad of Mysteria

The nuns of The Poor Clares wondered aloud 

What to christen the babe of the mother—

Dead now. 

What to call this pale waif, who could never be given

The name of a saint, or Virginia their State, or

That of a mother unshriven.

So they baptised her fast, and watered her crown

And whispered in a spring vine’s aroma 

This vow:

Wisteria you be, as our walls it grows charmed,

Purple lips, poison heart, may they keep you

From harm.

Miss Wysteria grew in the way of the vine

Unfettered, spreading, a darling 

Of the wild.

The sisters, ordinarily not given to permissivity

Were compelled, for their saneness, to 

Let her live free.

Till she took to a new life and sudden appeared

In the city of Fredericksburg, as

The good sisters feared.

Her name was a new one, her habits were old—

They read about her in the Free Lance-Star—

Pure gossiper’s gold.

Mysteriouser and mysteriouser, the writer’s misspoke

While reporting the Miss Deeds of our girl

Now of note.

While she, fresh inspired by her new life’s reports 

Adopted the handle Mysteria, 

For sport.

She played at the tables and baccarat rooms

And pinched men from women

And worse

The mayor called her darling, the governor my dear

She knew all their secrets, and played on 

Their fears.

In Washington circles she travelled and drank

With senators, congressmen, and

Men of the bank;

She left them bewildered, and quite short of 

Readies. She’d ask: What’s a girl to do,


Until, when the years creased her pretty pale face,

She shrugged off the town, and its trappings,

It’s pace,

And returned to her old cloistered aunties and dames,

Now wiser, and gentle, and done

Playing games.

Copyright ©  Peter Twohig. All rights reserved.