They never tell that she had children,
supple as lambs, that she tended a garden
and, when he played his instrument, looked
at her own face in the water pail,
dreamed of those words overheard at the well.
Old women’s words, women who kicked
the shards of broken jugs, scarfs over skulls and skin
at the mouth gathered with many stitches.
They bent over the stony rim as over an ear
muttering: how love shatters or slowly chips away,
how beauty washes from a face as easily as chalk
from slate, how children grow and part.
Each day her listening reached until it
yawned, a cave where she heard nothing else and entered
deep, finding the trail down the steep spiral
into the orifice of night where listening
is all there is and the mind forgets its way back.
And so it wasn’t, as they like to say, that small
fanged coil sprung from the earth that did it;
it was that she wanted him to remember
her seamless face, their passion unspoiled, her mothering
still sweet like milk before it turns in the night air.
She wanted to live on his lips forever
suspended, a white shell cradled between two waves.