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
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.