Friday, April 14, 2017

Lydia (published in East Coast Ink, 2014)

What's wrong, Lydia, the hunter's wife?
Sitting alone in front of the hearth,
a sock and needle in your lap,
staring at the fire, shadows of its flames
dancing on the walls of your one-room home.
           
Your husband, the hunter, is not home tonight,
as many nights before.
He shall return in a few days
with a deer or two splayed cold on his horses,
and chilly air will enter the house with him.
Will you offer him a warm cheek,
as you have done since many years back,
when you thought life begins here, far from home,
with this broad-shouldered man, whose words are few,
yet his touch is tender, and his lips are seeking.

Does routine nibble at you, Lydia,
after twenty years of waiting?
And your hopes are seeping out
as plans to add a nursery
are nearly forgotten.

Perhaps you will rise at once—
wash the floors,
shine the silverware, light the candles,
while humming a tune that rocks
like the waves in their tranquil hour.
You will wear your dark wool-coat
and leave the house for fresh air, flooded
with dreams: travel far away,
visit exciting places, discover new people. 
Or you might return to your hometown on the coast,
where your parents are growing old
in a large house filled with numerous rooms and books.
But you can still remember how you detested
the sounds and smells of the city,
and your longing for the serene lands of the prairie,
which is now your home.

Wrapped in your cloak, you briskly cross the frozen field,
glancing at the longstanding couple of leafless trees at the far edge of your land,
as you always do when riding the wagon on the road going up to the village.

You turn away from your home and walk fast,
your heavy grey dress sweeping the ground,
raising small clouds of glittering dust.

Then you abruptly stop to
look back.

Why are you standing there, Lydia, the hunter's wife?
Who are you glaring at, what do you see?
You are all alone here.
The night is empty,
the fields are sitting barren in the cold.

Is it me you are staring at?
(This is impossible, I think to myself)
I am not a part of this tale, I say to Lydia.
Go, go on your way. 
But she persists; her wild eyes dig into my mind,
her towering figure leans forward.

Surprised, I find myself
shivering in the slicing wind,
in this foreign land,
stumbling toward Lydia as she turns on her heel
and renews her pace up the road.
With a quickened pulse and trembling legs
I follow her.
But her steps are wide and confident,
and she soon becomes one with the dark.

At once, I am all alone in a night full of shadows,
glancing around in hopes of rescue.
In this vacant, quiet place.
Down the road sits the house of Lydia and her husband, the hunter.
The wind’s sharp claws dig into my skin.
Choiceless, I turn toward the light,
enter the warm log cabin,
close the door to leave
the night behind,
and approach the hearth.
On the chair in front of it, a sock and needle.
I pick them up, place them in my lap,
and hold out my palms
to the flames—listening
to the chatter of consumed wood.
I examine the sock in my lap; not keen on sewing,
what shall I do with this needle?

I look about:
to one corner, a small table
set with two chairs.
Dishes and books neatly stacked on sturdy shelves.
At the room’s other side:
an oval braided rug over the wide-planked floor,
a wide bed, soft blankets covering white linen.

I add logs to the dying fire,
lean back in the chair and watch the
frolicking flames.

Then rise to my feet and walk to the bed.
Sink into the mattress.
It accepts me like a mother’s bosom.

I recognize:
this is my bed, these are my books,
and my husband, the hunter,
will soon enter our home.
His greying temples under my fingers, his neck
emanating intoxicating scents.
My fingers will slide with feather-like touch
on skin roughed by summer sun and the winds
that blow upon these open plains.

The logs crackle in the hearth,
the flames are strong and steady.

At last, I am warm.
I, Lydia.