the dead wife

The dirt floor had to be leveled
And all the stones raked out,
Carried out in buckets and piled
In the yard as ballast against
The bowed foundation of the south wall.
There were boulders and bluestone
Slabs, some big as gravestones to haul out.

Damp evenings, working alone
In dim light with nothing
But the sound of shovel steel
On rock for a soundtrack,
The mind wanders, and I found myself
Sure I’d uncover that body:
First a bone sticking up, followed
By a brown skull with bad teeth.

Some long ago farmer must have buried
A hated wife, a defective baby,
Or a child dead from consumption.
And I could picture the old geezer, some
100 years earlier, looking maybe like me,
Only guilty, shirtless and sweating
While he shoveled alone by candlelight,
Getting rid of the evidence.

No one ever asked after
The missing family member.
After all, life was hard then.
Later, when he walked to town
In his soiled overalls, if he ever did,
It was simply old farmer so-and-so,
Who himself would soon be dead.

As for me, it took many nights
To clear out the rock,
But I did, and then I mixed the concrete
And poured the floor by hand,
Sealing up my fantasy—
Another unsolved town murder
Lost to progress.

–Carl Watson


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