Mrs. Carriveau

Mrs. Carriveau was soon detained
a year in the county place women are sent.
Her detention loosed the gathered lips
that kept her secret secret for so long.
The secret was her husband Carriveau
with his cant hooks and his big-barred Stihl,
his rusting skidder like amphibious tank,
his F-350’s new-bought bulging tires—
they each went for a week’s wage in those days--
for cushioning each careful chosen trunk
to bring top dollar at the local mill
where smooth veneers unrolled like toilet squares.

Mrs. Carriveau was his right leg
and the left sometimes when just a day
remained to finish off the work of two.
Mrs. Carriveau knew his old machines
knew the limits of his knotted arms
and other parts--especially his brain—
she worked to make up differences between.
He knew the woods, and she knew what he meant.
To stay alive she took what he hauled out:
“J'm'en crisse” he’d extract from among
the other dirty sacres in his mind
of which she was just one.

One day Mrs. Carriveau stood winding
heavy chains that bind logs onto trucks
to satisfy the law when her old man
came raging like a randy moose in rut.
A flippant breeze had twisted one bull trunk
already on a defined arc to earth
hung it in a narrow maple crotch
that pinched it priapismically overhead.
All the effort of the felling plan
was wasted on account of her, he said,
for standing in the log yard winding chain
when he needed someone watching up.
She had made him make the widow-maker
he must now take down about like this:
he drew his elbow back like a bowstring
for the sucker punch that put her down
without a word, but as he turned to take
a second one, it was then she rose.

She pulled herself to standing with the door
of his dear F-350, where the chains
lay circled in its bed like tidy nests.
Ignition, wheel, accelerator aimed at him.
A second-degree accident, they said,
laid him on the ground like a field-pine
skidded out unlimbed, his arms and legs
all fractured like green sticks,
his neck at a right angle to his spine.

Mrs. Carriveau hasn’t much to say
except the cell is warm and dry the way
a woodbox is when kept behind the stove.
And, as for Mr. Carriveau, it’s a shame
widow and widow-maker were the same.

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