The Rev. Chester Williams left “my beloved
Wife Sarah Williams, the use and Improvement
of one third of my real Estate.” So much for love
in 1753, in Hadley, Massachusetts. Sarah gets only
a third and with a catch, a job to do, improve the place,
as if all the years of cooking and sewing, sweeping
and churning were not enough to satisfy God or
husband. To say, Pray some more, my dear, is not
enough. After all, the good reverend also bequeathed
“my Negro Woman named Phillis” to help with all
the chores, compounded now with “my cows and sheep,”
yours, Sarah, “for Ever,” an eternity of milk and manure
and caring for your slave’s complaints. But did you
complain about the two-thirds of house and land
which you now didn’t own? Not even his granting
“all my household Goods” is comfort, as though
you didn't share these goods, care for them, folding
and cleaning and polishing, especially the hutch
you loved and that Phillis probably helped shine
with bees wax. So we wonder, Mrs. Williams, what
was yours before the marriage. Maybe some linens,
a nightgown and fancy dress befitting the pastor’s wife.
But the rub of it all is the Reverend's parenthetical
command, “(Except my Silver Tankard).” Could
no woman properly wield its beer, or even display
it with honor befitting such a devoted husband.
But its disposition isn’t known, as is your fate, Dear
Sarah, your last years grasping onto that third. Who
would be surprised if all your cider turned to vinegar.
The Blue Jeep
“U. S. Is Tightening Rules on Keeping Scientific Secrets”
—Headline, New York Times 2-17-02
It is a winter without snow in Massachusetts.
Nor are there those friendly, white clouds
blossoming from people’s mouths when they
greet each other on the street. Something
is happening. There is a blue Jeep live-parked
by the high school. A girl in red gets out,
a boy in jeans gets out. They stand
near the smoky exhaust without talking.
The mother of one or both gets out
and says some sharp words to them.
They nod and walk to the school door.
The mother gets in the Jeep, which we know
is blue, and drives away. What if
she is never seen or heard from again?
What if she is part of some government
program known only to a few, not
even her husband, and certainly
not the children, who are not as remorseful
as is usual at times like these.
At her work, which is, of course, only a front
for her real job, which is a secret, they found
the skeletons of a few sentences in her desk
that contained words like deliquesce, ghat,
and respirable. It is known that the family
moved here recently from Texas, where, oddly,
they have more snow this winter than we.
The children stay home from school
often now. Homework never complete.
They have grown silent. Whenever they
talk, it is said, they only speak about
colors missing from the rainbow.
They only smile on the darkest of nights,
looking at the sky as a couple stars
give off a familiar, blue light.
Gary Metras is the inaugural Poet Laureate of the City of Easthampton, Massachusetts. Two of his seven books of poems were published in 2018: WhiteStorm (Presa Press) and Captive in the Here (Cervena Barva Press). His poems have appeared in such journals as America, English Journal, Hawai’i Pacific Review, Poetry, Poetry East, and Poetry Salzburg Review.