Mary Mackey

The Woman in the Moon

my great-grandmother
married at sixteen
a blue-eyed Irish woodworker
who promised to build her
a life out of apple wood
and cherry
instead he gave her
thirteen children
drank up the rent
and died of blood poisoning
while building a carriage
shaped like a shoe

for forty years
she lived alone
dressed in black
like a retired witch
in a house full of chests
and chairs and wooden clocks
waiting for him
to come home again

when she was eighty
and I was four
we met
her skin was so thin
by then that you could
see her veins like grain
she kept her teeth
in a glass of water
and her heart in a rosewood
box by the door

there is a woman in the moon
my great-grandmother told me
who carries a bundle of sticks
on her back

each month she swells
each month she declines
like many women
she has married a burden
and must bear it forever
across the sky

life bends us, she told me
my own life was scrap wood
my own life was sorrow
thick as a board

tell all your daughters
to build something better
burn kindling
not carry 
keep one eye on the sky