But early on she learned to recognize a look
of panic that flickered in his eyes and meant I can’t.
Then he fled to the cellar, and no indigo glitter
of daughter’s eyes or warm, nutmeg-scented cookie
could rouse him. For hours, for days, the drumming
of his hammer shook the joists and vexed their nerves
upstairs, until finally he rose with another birdhouse,
or a supernumerary coldframe for her early tomatoes.
Other wives, deranged by the racket, might erupt
in bickering or begin to court cankers.
She sank into placidness.
Sometimes, while soothing a baby’s squalls
or hunkered into cottony midnight quiet,
or lost in a dishwater reverie, she recalled the chilly
church steps and the sudden blast that billowed her
ivory gown and sent the lacy veil swirling round his head.
How could the champagne-happy nuptial guests help
but laugh at the faceless groom, all hat and spats?
They did not sense his dread of being trapped,
robbed of breath and sight. But a bride might.
And all those years she suffered so for
smiling while the shutter snapped.