Died Last Fall

by ieuan ap hywel
The Writer's Block
Honorable Mention, March 2022
Judged by Terence Culleton

The wind howls down the valley,
an icy blast from the black peaks.
It rattles the latch like a poltergeist,
slashing the kitchen window
with a crab apple sprig.
A puff of vapour expands

from the mine shaft hooter.
The sound reaches her seconds later.
The cage will lift
soon, and Evan will step
out with his shift, safety lamps in hand,
freed from the Stygian crypt.

She had washed his children, dried them
by the fire, dressed them in red flannel;
put to bed with copper hot-water
bottles wrapped in lamb’s wool.
Rachel, who’d taken ill, died last fall.
The yearly toll the pastor said, an act of God.

Easy for him to say, as if he had direct
access to the throne.
How long must she wait.
She’d seen him caress Rachel’s hair,
the touch that made her sister purr,
the younger, the pretty one.

“It’s for the children see, Evan.
I promised Rachel.” She’d washed
his back in the zinc tub, warmed
by an anthracite fire. She hid her needs
as he hid his manhood. Their daily,
brief moment of intimacy.

It came like an impetuous gust
from the peaks. Something she’d longed for.
When making ready to leave, he’d said,
“You don’t have to go.”
She’d searched his eyes,
the shroud of indifference gone,

he was alive again. She cried
that night in Rachel’s bed,
reached out to touch,
to make sure, to feel him stir.
“It’s for the best.
“It’s for the children.”