Mary X – the Negative Space
FOR IDENTIFICATIONMy name is…… Mary XMy address is.….. Snelgrove, OntIn case of accident or serious illness notify … … … … …
THINGS TO BE REMEMBEREDThe make of my bicycle is… … … … …
The number of my Bank Book is… … …. …
My Weight was… … …
On… … … … …
And my Height… … … Feet… … …
Size of my Hat… … … Gloves… … …
Size of my Hosiery… … … Collar… … …
Size of my Cuffs… … … Shoes… … …
Size of my Shirt… … … Drawers… … …
So you thought you snatched a treasure
From the pile of dust.
Then when you found no clue
you took offense that
I’ve deceived you
(haven’t we all mastered the art of deception
since the sixth day in the garden?)
I am of the long forgotten tribe
Who were AFRAID
Their diaries maybe read some day.
Sorry to disappoint you that you found no entry on the discussion
on the Social Role of Women In Rural Canada in 1898
Or that not once I complained
that God in Snelgrove
was a male.
My name was not a path either
(There were eleven Marys in the village that year).
The size of my stockings and my hat
Would not take you to the tribes
of the petite women
who did not give up.
Or the large women
You had to save your neat conclusions
for another essay.
But determined in your cotton gloves
you kept on searching
for hidden messages
among the stiff starched shirts and bushels of potatoes.
Only to find out
that old closets do not smell of the past
but of mothballs.
(Isn’t it ironic that we try to understand the living
by the way they bury their dead?)
So how could I lead you beyond
the moving tables and Ouija boards?
You sat there with your magnifying glass
unable to see
on the other side of your eyes.
Ther. SAT.JAN.1, 1898 Wea.
This is the first day of another year, how thankful we should be for
the many blessings we have received during the past year.
I shall strive to do my duty looking for strength from above.
I was very busy today, I baked and scrubbed.
My name is Mary X
I just began another year of waiting
For a miracle
So far no flopping wings
disturb the silence,
(though I unlock the door every night
after they all go to bed).
No radiance is bestowed upon me.
As the humble fact of my virginity
becomes more ironic every year
I begin to doubt.
When I doubt I scrub
bending low to the floor
so God won’t see my disappointed face.
I do not begrudge this other Mary
as I wash and clean and dig and rake,
and vainly try to understand
God’s wait-and-see policy.
For forty years I scrub and wait,
maybe I can outwait Him.
Just to prove
that miracles don’t happen in Snelgrove.
Ther. SUN. JAN. 2, 1898 Wea.
The first Sabbath of the year found me at Church, where I love to be,
For there we hear the good news, and gather new strength
for the duties of the week.
I was a cold day.
Mr. Nixon preached.………………………………
So first went the minister with the church elders
leading our Snelgrove group.
the school teacher organized everybody
so we would present ourselves
in an orderly fashion.
The postmaster yelled that the gifts were to be offered quickly,
without deferring the procession,
(everybody would be hungry after a long walk).
The Doctor nervously began to polish his stethoscope
with the cuff of the silk shirt.
Brave Lumberjacks smacked their lips with pride
over their shining axes.
Good Farmers hugged armfuls of wheat
to their breasts like children.
The Fishermen held up like a bunch of medals
the silver pike and rainbow trout.
As they set off to the ringing of the fire wagon bell
a few dawdlers would still try
to have one last cigarette
in the bushes.
Long after the last four left the village
a flock of panicked housewives,
in their best lace nightgowns
ran out from the kitchens.
Cluttering with pans and china,
some carried roast beef
some apple pie
They could see the tail of the procession
crossing the river
So when they arrived there was nobody
to welcome them at the Gate
and show them around.
But amazingly they could quicly
find their way to the kitchen,
apparently things were organized Here
as not to confuse anybody
When they finally entered the reception room
the men were already
discussing with God
local politics, speculating job opportunities
ready for the steaming geese
and mashed potatoes.
Ther. FRI. MAY 6, 1898 Wea.I rose early this morning an made the fire,
After we had breakfast, I went at cleaning up the kitchen
I whitewashed it and blacked the stove and washed the wood work
And scrubbed the floor.
I did a hard days work, I was tired.
(I set bread)…………………………
I scrub in the daylight,
I lie disturbed
by the undisturbed geometry of my body:
The pointed hemispheres
domes of nobody’s shrine,
above the hollow polygon of the ribcage.
The cylinders of the legs
interlocked with the motionless solid of the pelvis.
with a dark triangle
The darkness thickens, as my hand
creeps stealtily to assume
the width of the angles,
roundness of convexities
My skin ripples as I unsettle
the fleshy equilibrium.
The broken seal does not defy me
as I move along the line
In the coldnes of the dawn,
as I feed the dark torso of the stove
with a new tenderness,
I feel a chilling stare on my back.
The table on its straddled legs (assuming as usually)
with the chairs gathered around,
(even the crippled, three-legged stool crept out of its corner)
as they begin their duty.
How could I by so stupid! I panic.
Will they report me to God!
And the sister-in-law!
I fall on my knees and scrub the floor
twice as hard.
begging its smooth surface
Ther. FRI. JUN 15, 1898 Wea.I got up and made the fire, I was working outside this
forenoon and it has made my hands very sore,
And I was doing some cleaning up in the milk house
white washing and scrubbing.
W. M.’s baby died…………………….
Mrs. M.’s baby died today
I cried bitterly at night
because I did not have a baby
Mary, they said, you are lucky
you don’t have to go through this burden.
(I felt that easily distinguishable tone of superiority
of those who do)
God’s will they said
as they carried it out
to join three tiny brothers and sister,
(God announces his will to Mrs. M. more often than to others).
I sat there, uninvited weeper,
my womb like a dried out swallow’s nest
glued to the cornice of the barn
and never moved into
for some (too late) discovered inconvenience.
I would readily submit, I did not tell them,
not only to His will but His every whim
for a few happy seasons
with the bulging presence in my body.
For the moment when they stretch their sore backs,
hands authoritatively pressed against the buttocks.
To count the silly bugs of toes and fingers,
ascertain absurdity of the little sex.
To have them nod above
Me in the sweaty sheets: God’s will.
In the unruffled waters of my bed
I grieve my unborn babies.
Ther. FRI. JULY 12, 1898 Wea.This is a fine day, but warm and dusty,
They are all away celebrating the 12th,
but I had to stay as usual, I would liked to have
gone, I went to the field and cut some straw for a hat.………………………….
My Siamese twin is a woman
joined at the feet.
For a long time I was trying to tame her,
but she jumps to the ceiling
and snorts like a weasel
every time I get too close to her.
So to punish her, sometimes
I drag her along the dusty roads
to the sewing bee
(she hates sewing bees).
She burrows with her fingers in the ground,
wraps around the fences
to hold me back
Or I invite Sarah-Ann to visit,
I know she is scared of her.
She secretly envies her the horse and buggy.
She lurks quietly at my chair
as Sarah-Ann and I carry on polite conversation.
At night and on rainy days she disappears
She says the sour air of our old log house
I often turn the light on at night
to make sure she’s back.
What do you do that for! She barks.
Take me with you sometimes, I plead.
You couldn’t live
without your pots and brooms and rags.
I blow the lamp
And let her disappear
through the wall.
Ther. MON. NOV 6, 1898 Wea.
I rose this morning early as I wanted to finish
the pencil drawing of the cow for Robert.
I blacked the stove and scrubbed the floor in the
morning. I did the drawing after dinner.
Robert came up in the evening. He was well
pleased with it.………………………..
On my way from the cornfield
I stopped suddenly startled
by the beauty of a cow
philosophically chewing in the dust of the road side ditch.
She lay there reclining Indian Goddess,
beautifully unaware of the hooks in the butcher shops.
Indifference of a stoic locked in the amber of the eye.
The black and white map of distand lands
stretched between the span of the neck
And the protruding bones of the pelvis.
I chased the sacrilegious flies away
with a stick, I traced the petals of the Great Lakes,
pushed my way through the Magellan Strait,
jumped above the Great Wall fo China
and rested in the warmth of Sahara
comfortably dwelling on the bulging island of the belly.
I, to whom a trip to Brampton does not happen
twice a year
swam across the sacred waters of Ganges
that carry debris and miraculous healing.
At home exhausted I drew a childish picture of a cow
for Robert. Where did you learn to draw like this,
Mary? From the Hindu thinkers,
I said. He sat across the table blinking.
Ther. MON. DEC 6, 1898 Wea.
I got up and made a fire.
How beautiful every tree and shrub
looks today, they have a heavy coat
of hoarfrost on them, how wonderful they
look, nothing would be more beautiful.
I scrubbed in the forenoon.…………………………..
I wanted to run outside,
Kiss every little bud of frost,
Wrap the silvery branches around my shoulders
like a scarf.
So this is It, voice rang in my ears;
God finally revealed himself to me!
they kept Him in the churches,
nailed to the wood like a scarecrow
to me, who was too scared of His bloody face to love him.
But he found a way to escape,
deceived the guards
to meet me in the garden
sprinkle snow in my face, like goose feathers.
One foot outside I froze!
I could see them watching me across the lane
as I moved, three pairs of eyes fixed on me.
Securely justified behind their matrimonial fences
I could hear them tomorrow in the store:
Have you seen that Mary X
Dancing in the snow like a
Dear, dear, I gues that’s why nobody ever married her
Dear, dear, who would.
So I did not go to meet Him in the garden
I went back and scrubbed the floor instead.
Ther. THURS. DEC 31, 1898 Wea.
I rose and attended to the bread,I baked in forenoon, and after dinner I scrubbed and cleaned up the house,
this is the last day of another year,and we are still spared on earth we should be so thankful for all blessings.……………………………………..
I raked the ashes from the stove,
sprinkled on my head
Bent to the floor yet another time
(the handle of the brush
like the skin of my palm and
like a fist)
I gently stroke its battered surface
whose every rut and groove and grain
I know by heart.
And so its grayish boards
to the last splinter
Here is a funny shaped stain under the table
(where some thiry years abo I spilled ink)
we laughed then that it looked like a cradle,
now it looks more like a hearse.
Here, two decades ago
I lay all night
trying to bargain with God
The scar by the stove
is were I threw a pot in anger
(I could still afford to be angry then).
As I look at the barren wood
that smells of lye
I fail to remember
That once it stood
A supple pine.