She’s a dangerous woman. It won’t be easy
for any man who picks a fight with her
to think she’s beaten and he’s triumphed.
They would sit there in the empty nursery,
recalling fondly every smallest detail
of that dreadful evening.
She had always thought children important, however,
and he would see her in the yard occasionally,
or in Kensington Gardens, where she spent
most of her spare time peeping into perambulators.
The breathing was gone;
only teeth were left. When the heat got hot
she might walk about the house naked
or wrapped in a sheet,
her belly protruding like a winning watermelon.
That’s when life is most secure and safe,
when woman and her husband stand as one.
But that marriage changed. Now they’re enemies.
Mr Darling had beat the spirit away the very day
he entered her house. He couldn’t deny it.
“No, no,” Mr. Darling always said,
“I am responsible for it all.
I, George Darling, did it. MEA CULPA, MEA CULPA.”
One more wail would go the round in that wind by night.
“He’s dishonored me, the wife he used to love.”
She enclosed her left nipple with two fingers
of her right hand, so light was the touch,
childlike almost, more finger kiss
than kneading, and with this hand she fixed
across her lovely yellow hair the jewelry of death.
She let her hand play in the hair of the tragic boy.
“My hand will never lack the strength for this.”
She squeezed her eyes tight to see what it was
but all she could make out was high-topped
shoes she didn’t like the look of, a red ribbon
knotted around a curl of woolly hair,
clinging still to its bit of scalp.
She sat down in the chair by the fire,
where in the old days she had nursed them.
Roses of blood blossomed in the blanket.
By the time she faced him, looked him
dead in the eye, she had something in her arms.
“She’s awfully fond of Wendy,” he said to himself.
He was angry with her now for not seeing
why she could not have Wendy.
The reason was so simple: “I’m fond of her too.
We can’t both have her, lady.”
“Well, your children are gone.”
There was no tremor in her voice, no tears,
and instead of the children, pictures of babies
without faces, autumn with its bottles of blood and gold
and fingering a ribbon, smelling skin,
something inside him
cried Woman, Woman, let go of me.