The Unfaithful Housewife



For Mary Peace_

Then I led her to the river

certain she was still a virgin

though she had a husband.

The fourth Friday in July,

as good as on a promise.

The street lights were vanishing

and the crickets flaring up.

Last bend out of town

I brushed her sleepy breasts.

They blossomed of a sudden

like the tips of hyacinths

and the starch of her petticoat

bustled in my ear like silk

slit by a dozen blades.

The pines, minus their halo

of silver, grew huger

and the horizon of dogs

howled a long way from the river.

Past the blackberry bushes,

the rushes and whitethorn,

beneath her thatch of hair,

I made a dip in the sand.

I took off my neckerchief.

She unstrapped her dress.

Me my gun and holster,

she her layers of slips…

Not tuberose, not shell,

has skin as half as smooth

nor does mirror glass

have half the shimmer.

Her hips flitted from me

like a pair of startled tench:

the one full of fire,

the other full of cold.

That night I might

as well have ridden

the pick of the roads

on a mother-of-pearl mare

without bridle or stirrups.

Gentleman that I am,

I won’t say back the scraps

she whispered to me.

It dawned out there

to leave my lip bitten.

Filthy with soil and kisses,

I led her from the river

and the spears of lilies

battled in the air.

I behaved only the way

a blackguard like me behaves.

I offered her a big creel

of hay-colored satins.

I had no wish to fall for her.

She has a husband after all,

though she was still a virgin

when I led her to the river.