1888: Mrs. Sherwood

by Nonnie Augustine

It's gone too long since her Robby Sherwood's dreams rose

through the tenement chimney into pear-sweet clouds.

Once was he planned histories, carried herself over slopes

of hesitations to the night meadow, soft-skinned and whispered.

Her man shouldered off insulting herds, braced against tumblings.

If violence done him early on hid deep until too many small hungry maws

and no decent way to feed them released the battering storm

of him as is now—so be it. She's done all her forgiving.

Margaret will take her seven away from his raging Irish hammers

slurry Saturday night honks, smashing red eyes.

One more strike from the king of his three room castle

five loud floors up and she'll wrap her pups in her wintry coat,

carry them in her giant's arms to an island green as the sleeves

of St. Patrick's cape and fat with potatoes big as cows.

She'll fill her purse to bursting with lamb stews and fresh milkings.

Margaret notes the hunch of her oldest girl, vows on Katie's sacred

McGuffey Reader to raise her sheilas fierce, her lads tender.

Holy St. Matrimony be damned!

Finished she is with the dead saints too busy to help.

She'll pray to the ancient living fairies to find gentle sanity away

from the devils of Five Corners. They'll board a secret train

countryside bound where they sing the songs of her own dead Mam

who lived poor in the world but rich in her man's honoring.

On the day she'll blow a pagan's kiss good-bye

leave with a grin and a quick cold nod

of her great victorious mother bear's chin.