Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Helpless \ Indian Mary

Alan:  The mind wanders down strange roads, waiting, unable to act.
No ghosts, no galleon,
no ribbon of moonlight,
just gray sky
and glazed, gray ruts
bending through tired snow
to where the trees press in.
No Tess, no redcoats,
thank god no shot in the night,
just you, sick,
asleep on the couch,
grocery store blooms
wilting at your head.
No highwayman,
no, no highwayman –
certainly no highwayman – 
no gallop, no clatter of hooves,
no dark, dangerous mission,
just me, sitting near you,
riding my thoughts,
wishing you well.
Nancy:  One story or many, more or less true.  And at least one woman had a photograph taken in a wonderful tall beaver hat, and her life was well known.
Indian Mary
Indian Mary floated down past the islands
on the ice;
she would’ve drowned.  They’re still telling,
“Pierre, he pulled off his boots,
dove...”  She went to live in the white town
then.  About Pierre, we don’t know
whether he drank, or was unkind;
they say he bought his Mary silver buttons
and a beaver hat, but the story is not about that
but about his dive,
and how he raced the sea ice for love.
Women wear stories like that.  I myself
can feel an invisible silver locket between my breasts,
filled with heroic love.  But last week,
when I crossed the ice, the tide was setting in,
and the floes were jostling under the pasture fence.
No chance there for the splendid gesture.
The plain truth of our life here in the winter
is that it is spare.  You have never given me
a silver locket engraved with forget-me-nots, but
for love you rise twice at night to feed the fire,
and first at dawn to put the kettle on.
I thought it worth the telling.
“Indian Mary” first appeared in Living on Salt and Stone (Stone Man Press, 1984).

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