Ernestina The Shoemaker's Wife

(From The Holyoke)

“You have his eyes,” she’d say to me,
and then to my old aunt, “Those are
the eyes I saw!” And she would tell again
how Saint Francis caught her in the woods
when she was a young girl. Dominic,

her husband, would never sit still
when she spoke of it, would rise slowly
from the Morris chair and go outside,
down the rows of kale and corn
to his barn, his hammers and lasts.

“He took the breath from under my heart,”
she said, her thin fingers crooked at her breast.
“It was not what you think, He was a power,
a beast. And the rain came down, and he held
me there, my dress sticking, my body showing.”

When I wanted to wander out the door
and sit among the sharp-smelling hervas
in her garden, they let me go
and kept talking behind curtains
that breathed in and out in the slow air,

and they prayed the Rosary together,
droning through the Mysteries. “Don’t cross her,”
is what my mother said. “She’s a bruxa
and can give you the evil eye herself.”
“That kind of talk is foolish,” said my aunt.

Whenever we left, my aunt would take
my arms and lean to me─”Remember
that she is only talking about a dream!”
But I remembered Dominic’s hammering like a bell,
and how she said even the wet trees shivered.



More Poems from The Holyoke

Diving For Money
Leaving Pico
The Old Country
Torrão Natal
Largando o Pico