Mary's Duties

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.

From Desire Lines: New and Selected Poems by Lola Haskins, published by Story Line Press. © 2001 by Lola Haskins. Reprinted with permission of the author and Story Line Press. All rights reserved.