Gretchen Waiting

Harry Brown

It is late and quiet
with now and then a far off yelping hound
and noises passing in the street.
Mother peacefully sleeps.
After a long night's heavy rest
she will awake tomorrow feeling fit to walk on golden streets.
Tomorrow we will both feel well.
John comes soon.
To sit up straight,
rest my head against the brick
and feel my fingers grip the bench,
to dream of him and me alone-
this is good.
My belly will not stay its churn
but yearns tonight after its own mind.
The kettle shines,
the hearth is clean.
I have shined and swept for him.
The fire burns a clear flame.
Even the air tonight smells sweet,
rare in this neighborhood with its dung in every ditch.
Thank God John will come alone tonight.
I hate--forgive--I cannot like his friend
whose presence hurts my chest
as if he pressed me in a prison cell
until I leave myself.
Thank God John will come alone-
he with that great beard
thick and black as his velvet coat is thick and scarlet--
with rings on half his fingers!
And I sit here before my polished pans
without a ribbon even in my hair.
John will wonder why he sent gifts.
At first they pleased, the gold and rocks.
I hid the second box
to keep it from that fish-faced priest
who said the first one stank of hell,
and sucked it up!
Tonight I cannot wear my second wealth.
Mother's monk may have it, too,
and if I had a third
and the church's craw were filled,
I'd tell him pack it back himself
to where it stinks most properly!

God forgive my anger . . .
Forgive my ugly anger.

If I had another now,
a third casket the size of a baby's box,
I could smile and render it myself to God
or, better, return it into earth.
It cannot belong to love.

 

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