Laid out on a small cot,
supple as a seedling,
New Wife waits for New Husband.
Entranced, she believes
She is nothing
Soon she’ll wear thin.
She’s a pouty girl with pointed breasts
and pear-shaped hips,
scarcely younger than their own daughter.
Old Wife listens
for his step on the stair.
She avoids mirrors now,
her features lost
in fissures of thickened skin.
Charred fingers, sausage slabs,
The surgeons saved her; a miracle
The authorities know.
They close one eye.
‘A row perhaps? A female indiscretion?’
‘Economic woes,’ her husband replies.
‘I couldn’t afford two wives.’
He hurries home, blames Agni the fire god,
savior of limp cocks,
Old Wife lives.
No relief in sight.
She chops chilies, prepares
Her dark eye flails him.
Fists pound dough,
resentments rolled thin.
Desire salts his tastes.
His mind stuck on the mango jelly
the girl dabs between her thighs,
his tongue circling
hard as peach stones, plump fruit,
sweet to suck.
Paper-thin walls, bed creaks.
Kitchen shrinks in the swell of heat.
Sausage fingers rub mangled chin,
half nubs of singed flesh,
slivers of skin slough off,
bacon-crisp, pain a cipher,
New Wife laughs at the old man’s need.
Outside the sun sinks behind sky of pinks and reds.
Gloom descends into shadows.
Old Wife edges towards the door,
good eye pressed against the crack.
She spies the old man’s wrinkled buttocks,
pasty, doughy, rising and falling
as ducks feed from the sludge of a pond,
beaks burble and quack.
Perhaps one day when the girl’s body sags
the wives might
Perhaps over multiple cups of Chai,
she’ll tell her a tale of old wives.
A dupatta dipped in paraffin,
a shove from behind.
An eye blinded,
blinking in flames.
Annette LeBox is an award-winning Canadian poet, novelist and children’s writer with seven published books. Her poetry has been widely published in literary journals such as Event, Poetry Canada, Prairie Fire, Matrix and the Southern Review. Two of her children’s books have won the British Columbia Book Prize. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia.
LeBox is an environmental activist, feminist, and wife of a former politician.