Bluebeard's Wives, by Kathy Mac

April 21, 2016

After twenty-four and three-quarters years married

      Bluebeard’s first wife killed herself in the house

            they built. (That’s a bit misleading. Truth is,

 

in the weeks that followed, ’Beard and the kids stared

      at each other, eyes and mouths round like Cheerios,

            thinking “What did you do?” and “What did I say?”)

 

Three months later he remarried, his long-time assistant.

      Refinished her basement, too. The man kept his promises

            but not her. Years after, news came that she’d died.

 

Parkinson’s. Unexpected, since she was two decades

      younger than ’Beard. By then he’d already parted

            (amicably, he’s an amiable man) from number Three

 

who really only lasted long enough for him

      to replace the insect-rotted wooden floor

            of her tropical duplex with ceramic tile. Cool.

 

Four simply didn’t want to be alone through

      a hurricane. But she decided to keep ’Beard

            as he was doing repairs on the fly while it rained

 

horizontally inside her bungalow.

      A decade later, he found someone to mind her –

            Alzheimer’s – while he attended Three’s memorial.

 

Five and he both survived heart surgery before they met.

      Matching scars. They bought a small condo, in good shape.

            She doesn’t like ‘Beard to climb even a step-stool,

 

change a light bulb. All the others let him reign

      in the workroom, tools on hooks in pegboard,

                        with outlines to show what’s missing.

 

*****

Kathy Mac, AKA Kathleen McConnell, is a professor and author currently living in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Her most recent book is Pain, Porn and Complicity: Women Heroes from Pygmalion to Twilight.

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