Beyond the monastery walls there is a row of apple trees.
Was it the communion bread that woke me? In her mind
it was the seed of Christ. Beneath her robe a shirt woven from
horse hair scours her belly raw. Her want for a child was so great
it was the wolf’s howl at the orchard’s edge. Like a spirit
in a haunted room, I whirled inside her until the ceiling raised
and the woman loosed her belt. And then the days were quiet.
Many months I stayed with her there by the window, needle-
point in her lap. And as she worked, her hair shirt rustled me
to sleep. She has never known a man. Yet surely soon
the other brides who bring her tray of bread and butter
will gather at the door, wedding rings clinked to their
crosses as they raise a hand to their hearts, ringing the bells
of astonishment. Surely their eyes will be opened. The wolves
grow impatient in the yard. But in the evenings when we are alone
together, she gathers her woolen robe at her hips, slips her hand
to her belly beneath it, and there is a certain warmth I have grown
accustomed to and which stirs me, I would say, if I had a bone
in my body, to my very bones. I am ashamed, after all this time,
to slither away as I must and leave her deflated on the bed, her
wild eyes searching the room. Beyond the wall there is a row
of apple trees. She believes in me. It is good to be believed.
Copyright © Persea Books 2014
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on behalf of Persea Books.