The countryside of horses and cows,

their odors, the smells of mother earth

and chief among them, for young lads,

the women menstruating, seductive, unobstructed, rude.

Gravity that pulled you down,

and none wanted perfume,

especially the young.

I knew Mary then,

she was as comely an Irish lass

as ever sunlight loved

with her red hair,

and white-as-milk breasts,

and child-ready as they come.

The farms in our district were full of boys

my age who lusted as I did, and equally callow.

and then there were all the men my father’s age

And likely as not they would have Mary,

before we lads would have our opportunity.

One man I knew well,

not a woman would have him.

burdened by lack of social graces

awkward in speech

and far too gentle by appearance,

all his hours spent with his nose in books.

What could such a man do to please

a woman in the dark

or ride with her in a horse-drawn wagon

through romance or live firmly safe and satisfied

with the blandishments a woman earns

through child-bearing and faithfulness.

And so he was her choice.

And the whispers and even public conversations

declared dismay.

But among the disappointed, I held my tongue,

and held my heart alive for what once the sages called

a better day, though it one would never come.

Mary, once young, told me herself

she was happily accustomed to her children

and her husband

And never thought a thought about

the boys who dreamed so wildly of her.

And never knew the dreams

that I myself had of her.