“Go and catch a falling star;
Get with child a mandrake root”
–Song (Go and catch a falling star), John Donne
He spends his days working in the fields,
sweating in the wheat’s pale gold.
When I go to the well
or call the children from their play,
I see his back dipping and falling
in a steady unstoppable rhythm.
But my eyesight is bad;
now, I don’t miss what I had
never wanted. When he first came
I was spinning futures from the stars,
and barely noticed the new kid, son of the aunt
who married some foreigner. My sister
is the one with time to smile at visitors.
His eyes slipped over me like oil from water
to settle on her face, covering flesh with gold
for seven years. But it was me they sold
in those years. It was me they veiled,
pushed against him, my fists clutching
only darkness. His blind hands
roamed my flat silent body,
happy until morning
unmasked my fae. His I couldn’t see;
the records make it very clear:
he loved Rachel more than Leah.
He did his duty during the years
of forever. Most nights I spent alone
with the children. Sometimes
I lay outside, fractured vision
melting the known stars
flickering on other eyes, other places.
I wanted them to flare my distress
signals, a silver SOS
to lives beyond one line on one page:
Leah’s eyes were weak
but Rachel was beautiful and lovely
and traded two mandrakes for a night of love.
On the day she pointed out
their usual tree. I waited
curled against the amber evening chill.
He gave no greeting and no smile; still
I said, You must come into me;
for I have hired you for my son’s mandrakes,
the words falling from my mouth
as if into oil – extinguished, ineffectual.
Before he woke I slipped beneath his arm,
stumbling across a plain of stones,
quartz stars dying in the sun.
One more artless morning had begun.