In the Month of Her Death (August 1850), Mary Ann Scarlett Parland McKay, Age 34, Reflects
~ Leslie Stainton
Alone on the island, two husbands gone, I watch
for pelicans and thread the needle in my palm.
Another sampler on my lap. I stitch
their names: William, Theodosia. Coddled, gone.
Those two times I saw my mother cry.
For what shall a woman be if not this – vessel,
seamstress, mender of tears, stoker of fires.
I knew it too, the weight of bodies nestled
inside. My wedding day: the cotton dress
pressed against my thighs, daisy spray
in my arms. The monstrous man. This
gray, imperious, red-nosed Scot. A way
with women, they said. Father’s friend. I was all
of sixteen, and I heard my mother howl.