Mary's Duties

By Lola Haskins

He is rid away to the tenant farms
and I take up my pen to list
the shakings-out and openings.
And my thin letters lean as sails
that, though driven, cannot arrive.

May the ninth, I write.
And: Mrs. Ferguson.
Unbutton the bed pillows
and plump them to the air.
Then: Take the curtains down
and with your broom unseat
the spiders’ webs. Open

the windows and leave them
wide and here the thread trails
off, among the cottages
with their spring festoons of eggs
pricked with pins and blown,
fragile as the blacksmith’s daughter
dreaming in the sun, who lifts
her skirts above her white knees.

I pull back behind a hedge.
Let her not meet me, with my dry pen.

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