Sunday, August 9, 2015

Bessie's Lament

Bessie's Lament

Bessie was a maid, too old for the time
As her brothers all married, her sisters behind
Her folks had long since resigned in lament
Thought Bessie, their first born, hardly worth the rent
But new frocks and tea dances she did disdain
A finger never lifted to offset the plain
Through years she thus went, with needle and thread
Kept a host of old novels entertaining her head

In town, oh, the looks of pity and relief
From those ten years younger but to offset their grief
Would say of our Bessie - “After all, though she
Were never to wed, why should it be
That such grave misfortune should happen to me?”

And as such things go, her girlfriends played cupid
But this one was ugly and that one quite stupid
Robert was short,  David far too tall
And on Bessie went, new complaints for them all
Til an afternoon in May, a gloom-cast soaked day
The Ash library on 10th Street, not far from the way
To her house on Chapel Hill, wisteria lined
A picturesque cottage, grey-shadowed and vined
She found herself lost, as she often did
In the world of words, where classics were hid
She most favored Chaucer and whenever she could
Would choose her own corner like a child in a wood
And magical things were available then
That formed a much needed respite from Somerset Glenn

And there he appeared, still wet from the pour
Shivering quite comically right at the front door
Newspaper over his head, a smart bespoke suit
“Blasted weather!” he said loudly, a reply seemed moot
But she smiled nonetheless and when the sky did clear
He walked Bessie home, while the townsfolk all leered!
Percy, oblivious, did confidently stroll with her
And Bessie, so vindicated, wore the smile of a murderer

Niceties were met, needed hands shaken and shook
The date was then set, her parents with the look
Of convicts escaping gallows, and rightfully so
But what was to come, no one could know

Newly married women, are often naive
No matter what age – they want to believe
So, if Percy liked the pub, and that's where he be
Is this not more preferable to a man lost at sea?
Or the pitied life of a miner's wife
Full of endless toil and ill health?
With several children to feed - no chance of wealth?
His family was comfortable, that she well knew
He lived well without working, and his father did too
He'd made a killing in the market, he'd invested well
He knew when to buy and he knew when to sell
Percy, too, played the odds in a different sort of way
He gambled at tables and several times a day
Could be heard in hushed tones, on various telephones
To someone named Victoria, and once there was Joan
Still Bessie was contented in her wedded bliss
Until things took a turn, went somewhat amiss

If Percy liked the pub, and that's where he be
This was still more preferable, than a man lost at sea
And the longer he lingered, the better she found
She could tolerate the moments when he was around
When he stumbled around, would be the better form
Of words to describe it as he entered their home
At first it was harmless, he'd fall to bed and snore
She'd cover him with blankets, speak of it no more
When his inevitable apologies spilled out with his tears
She couldn't help but feel him a child for his years
So she comforted and calmed, and soothed and balmed
Because he was really quite lovely (sans all the beers)

But soon it was noticed, whenever Bessie was about
She'd cover her face, didn't like to stand out
And she'd never been shy, she'd always been proud
Although she was plain, she stood out in a crowd
Her bearing was such, so stately and grand
That despite the belief, many asked for her hand
In that long ago past, she remembered with rue
How happy she was, (though it had certainly been true
That she'd sometimes been lonely, and sometimes been blue)

Blue she was now, and purple and black
And sore, beat, and broken from the latest attack
Mysterious illnesses were sudden, she couldn't come to see
Her nieces and nephews or even to tea
A conspiracy of silence surrounded her now
Though everyone knew, no one would allow
It to be spoken out loud, nor even a hint
Would be made about Bessie or what any of it meant

People who've dwelt in a quaint country house
Are used to being plagued by rat, and by mouse
Or any such creatures with nasty sharp teeth
Who find their way into attics and inside walls
Strange noises in the rafters, and scratching in the halls
Are too much to bear, for any houseproud wife
To be afraid to stir in bed, is no kind of life
And so Bessie went out, making her way
While Percy still slept past noon on Sunday
To the chemist on Grant Street, and purchased a few
Of some little brown bottles and in them she knew
Was the cure to her troubles - this godsend of a brew

She vanquished the vermin, of the furry kind
But now something different came into her mind
What if! Too dreadful to mention
Too monstrous and evil to hold her attention
The idea quite vanished completely from view
Besides, she had housework, and errands to do
But the bottles remained, as some kind of scar
And then seemed to glow, like a brightly lit star
Through the days, through the weeks, it sure seemed remiss
Of her to not at least attempt an experiment with this

And so Percy became nauseous after dinner one night
(It was sole with steamed vegetables, and Turkish delight)
Bessie unharmed, tended carefully as nurse
And when he was distracted, went into her purse
For the little brown bottle
Poured a bit into the tonic, that was meant to cure him
He worsened but slowly, how long to endure him?
The little brown bottles, she only needed two
To accomplish the task that she'd set out to do

When the funeral was over, and the insurance check cashed
She went back to the library on 10th st and Ash
She sat in her corner, read her beloved prose
Week after week, in her drab and worn clothes
Never again did she long, as I've heard it told -
For a sweetheart of her own to have and to hold

(Author: Clarissa Allison aka: morphoeugenia)

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