The Widow – Mary Ellen Shaughan

It’s been months since she buried her husband.
She stood straight as a corner fence post
as he was lowered into the ground and was the
first to pick up a shovel, the first to scatter black
Iowa soil across the top of the burnished
mahogany box. Everywhere she goes,
she sees the hand of her husband,
the golden grains whispering in the field as
the wind bends them this way and that;
the white hen house he painted last spring,
just weeks before the accident, and the
offending John Deere tractor out behind
the barn, its front wheel bent at an
irregular angle, reminding her of their son’s
broken leg after his first football game.

Now, in October, the reds and golds of the trees
in the windbreak are audacious in their colorful display,
making her want to take to her bed, and block from her
vision all displays of life. She talks to her children, and
to her neighbors who brought casseroles (even though
she could probably make them better); she smiles
at church friends and accepts their belated
condolences, while on the inside she is seething
with rage at a god who, if he has the power
she thinks, did not use it to save her husband;
she resents all those women whose husbands,
sunburned and stiff in their starched Sunday shirts,
walk behind them into church, who will sit down
with them at supper, and share their bed at night.

She thinks she will not live long enough to stop
missing him, that man who was her husband,
the one who brought her ragged bouquets of flowers
from the garden, and who hit her less and less often
as the years went by.
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