Penelope

i am
straight as a pin’s tail.   narrow as a needle’s eye, sti sti stitching
(unlike that one, esa bruja de la isla where men roam as
pigs, quien sabe muy bien what it is to be a woman,
el dolor de womanhood, but has decided, like the witch that
she is, to stick pain into the heart of una hermana.
who does not know what it is to vow unto death—
when the body is poppied with youth, but the tongue knows not
the knot and stitch of words ~

oh   to   dance
float,    float!

nimble as nymphs, carefree as cologne, fertile…flowing…nubile…

before it has
learned to groom
words like mountains,

attend them
like spaces in combs.

who does not know the pea of respectability only a true princess
feels, the chastened bed, the halo’s bite, the frayed lash of longing.
who does not know what it is to carry on knowing the day rises
to die and the night mourns to rise as maidens marry, become
mothers more than once, and grooms become fathers to children
que crecen y cambian con los años, grow and change enfrente de sus
ojos and husbands to wives who grow fat and old and wifely,
wifely, beside them.

quien no sabe what it is to sit pious as a pin’s head, sharp as a
needle’s end, threading hope like a hobby, con cada oración,
after each little resolution that this, sí este, será el año
of his return. who does not know what it is to have men of court,
the choice of the kingdom, vying for your hand, while las viejas
shove fur into your hands, fidelity i would sooner cast off
but for their whispers, their pointed ¡cuidase reina! your stitches
are loose! loose.

the heart does not sit still. it makes a bubble of its breath,
it sews and pines, needling over doubts about the
steadfastness of a husband surrounded by women: the nymphs, the
sirens, the witches who would seduce him, make him forget promises
to wife, child, and kingdom. these thoughts make hope a purgatory
las viejas say i am making worse. Let him be a man and you be a woman
a wife and mother.

who does not know that the heart fasting on hope produces an
arsenic that numbs bit by bit, fingers less nimble, so that el invierno
viene less sharply after each passing. and stills bit by bit that i no
longer suffer winter as much or drink summer as much or fall or spring
as much. and embitters bit by bit, heart and hands and head less steady,
poco a poco, that i catch myself sharpening vigilance for fear, por temor
of slipping, of becoming a Helen or worse, another Hera. i have become
an island to myself, myself.

pero then, yes it is then, at these times that I am reminded to
tighten my stitches, reminded by las viejas clinging incessantly as
conscience, to remember that i am not alone.   other women have
husbands they are waiting for, husbands with my husband. who am i
to think of myself, to worry that i have become an island to myself.
it might be true que no sea la mujer que era, la esposa muy joven i wish
i could still be, pero ésa, i am told, no es importante. Debe recordar que
que es un ejemplo, an inspiration a las mujeres, sus comadres que
llevan una carga como Ud. y se sienten como se siente, keeping the hearth
clean afuera y adentro, inside y out por always y siempre. it is our cross,
nuestra duty as women, the wives of warriors. i remember then that
she, that one, may be an enchantress ~ without a care for reputation,
duty, or fidelity ~ with magic hands and magic ways but she is nothing
but a bruja and i, i am a wife, la reina de casa y kingdom, the keeper of
a name, a legacy for my son, nuestro niño, la esposa de un gran hombre
que lesser men envy and greater men admire. la madre of a prince who
remembers his father in los cuentos que le contaba of herself with a
heart of hope for his father, husband and warrior, setting out 1, 2 , 5, 7,
10, 15, 20 years ago. heart stitched upon he who might not return, but
for whom hope lingers past the past y past the present:
ojalá que él no muera, ojalá que no me muera.
that age does not kill me before he returns.
ojalá que i remain faithful and true y guapa
so that when he returns, he will still want me.
ojalá que this hope sustains, does not kill me.
ojalá que should he return, i am able to embrace
the warrior returned, brave and negligent, my husband.

i pass these years pensando de todas esas cosas, all these things y mas
while sti sti stiching to wife and stay, wife and stay this bandit of a heart,
this mapache…comiendo y comiendo mi esperanza, hope…
…unfurled, unfurling in stretches of paw) as i must.

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