The lantern sways, as shadows flash,
Mists draped in night so still;
Illuminating fleshless arms,
Creep-out along this hill.
Such guardians of soul-less mounds,
Wooden markers of the poor,
Bow in hallowed reverence
As sentries evermore.
Weeping, yet un-frightened,
She trips between each aisle;
Casting light against each stone,
Acknowledge each beguiled.
Then memory finds her grasping,
And clenching cold, damp stone
Denoting ‘neath a vacant plot,
For he never did come home.
‘Pon scattered grass and gravelly dirt;
Drops to reverent knee,
While fanning simple pleats about,
Her dress, in modesty.
She twists the **** and raises wick;
And it curls with cloak of flame.
She whets her lips, inhaling deep,
Then summons ‘pon his name:
Can you see that I ‘ave come?
Are you near, me sweetest husband?
‘Tis I, your Mary Dunn!
I had me thoughts to come t’night,
To ‘ave a word with you,
That’s pressin’ on me heart so fierce,
Ya’ ‘round Bartholomew?
Aye, that’d be just like ye some,
To wait fer me confess;
A’twisten’ in me awkward words,
No salve fer me distress!
Yet I—I need t’hear yer voice
An’ calmin’ words to heal,
The anxious quiver, here, inside,
A’longin’ to reveal.”
The widow paused, collecting will,
And questioned own intent;
To cast a net to spirit’s world,
To herald self- repent.
She wrings her fingers nervously,
While waiting ‘pon the dead;
When suddenly a breeze did rise,
Then a hand upon her head.
“Mary Dunn, me Mary Dunn,
‘Ave not better things to do;
Than wander ‘bout such crypts at night,
A’hovered by the moon?
What keeps y’here in dank an cold,
So callin’ out fer me?
Ye know fer fact I’m dead by now,
An rottin’ in the sea!”
“It’s good to see ya’ too, my love;
Better then, to hear;
That death din’t take away that tongue,
Or how ye prone t’snear.
I ‘spected that I’d smell ya’ first,
That rancid scent of whale;
Yer eyes were once quite darker,
Yer skin not quite so pale”.
The spirit corpse then spun about,
Examined high and low,
The fiery bride he’d left behind,
With heart so still aglow.
Warmed by her excited eyes,
And cheeks so pink with life;
He felt a distance aching,
Longing for this wife.
“Ye got a bit of lonely, Mary,
That why ye come tonight;
‘Spectin’ glimpse ‘ov me, like this
‘Wud turn ya’ heart to right?
Sensible is how ye was,
Yet be scurryin’ to find,
Such wisdom in yer harkin’,
To terms ye felt unkind.”
“Stop with ya’! Stop with ya’!
Ya’ stubborn, briney goat!
T’wasn’t me who boarded ship
An’ failed to keep afloat!
Aye, the heaven hasn’t tempered,
The iron in yer will.
Judge me not Bartholomew,
One, amongst the krill!”
The bearded ghost then chuckled,
‘Til tears came to his eyes.
Proud he was to have such time,
To spend with feisty bride.
He then retreats in silence,
As he gleans from her distress,
That she torments with a secret,
To him, she must confess.
“"Bartholomew, me love,"
she embarks to make her plea,
"Ye left me young an' fruitful still,
yet no child ‘pon me knee.
I'm not as sturdy as y'think,
An' tremble at the thought;
deprived I am of husbandry,
my womb be saved fer naught."
Without ye then, I’ll ‘ave no spring,
No child to remind,
Of splendid days, brighter sun,
Me husband now divine.
I’m askin’ yer forgiveness,
And yer permit to pursue,
The kindly callers come to me,
In absence then, of you.”
“Yer speakin’ of the cooper, Tim,
Or Drew, the smithies’ hand?
Aye, better off with men who keep,
Their feet upon the land!
But Tim, I’m sadly knowin’ that,
His time is comin’ due;
An’ if a child be yer design,
There ‘ain’t no seeds in Drew.
I’ll not be one to keep ya’,
To an empty marriage bed.
Lord knows ye d’serve a finer life,
Than keepin’ with the dead.
But ev’rythin’ that’s in me,
Needs ye hurt no more.
Death ‘as grant me favored eyes,
I ‘adn’t known before.
I’ll come ‘ere, e’vry night,
An’ visit, yer desire.
Honest, I will always be,
Tendin’ yer require.
Love ‘been mine for days of flesh,
Then, for eternity.
Go then now, me Mary Dunn,
An’ make a life for thee.”
With courage she did leave that night,
With freedom then realized,
To pair with then, another mate,
Forsaking former ties.
Yet, on the night that followed,
And for thousands after, too,
She chose the comp’ny of the ghost,
Her lost Bartholomew.
Each night she braved nature’s serve,
Through rain, or cold, or sleet;
Imbibing ‘pon such moment’s time,
To feed on love so sweet.
Each minute spent, Bartholomew,
Rejoiced in hardships, laughter;
And only God and Time will know,
Such treasures in hereafter.
One night, amidst November freeze,
Mary staggered there,
Among the stones akin to home,
With her husband shared;
Lungs revolting, gurgling swell,
Mouth of staining red;
Contrasting earthly suffering,
Found solace ‘mongst the dead.
Fevered to delirium,
Wet, silver-tainted hair,
She settles ‘side familiar post
And finds him waiting there.
Struggles so to form a breath,
In hopes that she may speak,
Surrendering the day’s accounts;
But fears she is too weak.
“Aye, ‘tis time, me Mary Dunn,
A’time that ye come home.
Beyond this night, forevermore,
Y’ll nev’r be alone.
I wish that I could reach ya’ now,
An pull ya’ ‘cross the veil
That’s kept us ‘part these many years,
In spite of what’s prevailed.”
“So ‘lighten me, me whaler man,”
She coughed a pale reply.
“Why’d ya’ choose to lie to me,
To keep me as yo’r bride?
The cooper, he outlived us both,
Eight children sprung from Drew;
Ye lied to me for all these years,
What say, Bartholomew?”
“I feared me own accord, me lass,
From terms set forth above;
Ye cannot cross to waitin’ arms,
Unless ye go with love.
An’ I, but one love known to life,
This chance then rest with you
To be me escort to the Lord,
This, I say is true.
Should ye have taken ‘nother man,
I feared that ye’d be his;
An’ ye’d be taken up with him,
While I’d be left like this;
A-hoverin’ in between such space,
An’ time, by lonesome self;
While pinin’ for me heart of life,
Me Mary, ‘n no one else.”
“Aye, such flat’ry from des’prate ghost;
It was my life ye know;
I seen ya’ for deceiver,
So many years ago.
But I choose’d to keep me vows to you,
‘Til heaven takes me in;
An’ if I granted sim’lar choice,
I’d choose the same a’gin’.
I’m dying love, I feel it now,
Me spirit needs to leave;
This body sez it’s had enough,
Me time is done, indeed.”
“Lay down, me lass, breath peace,
Lay down ‘n be there, still;
Our fate, as love, ‘pears destiny,
As both our lungs were filled.”
Mary Dunn surrendered then,
To callings of her spirit;
With forever longing arms of his,
She had no cause to fear it.
United once again, at last,
Of faith and love of few,
She crossed into Eternity,
With her love, Bartholomew!
As this represents a needed edit, I'd like to extend my gratitude to Drew for precise observation, critique/guidance and to my dear poet friend, Ron Gardner, who donated several verses to this piece that were clearly more appropriate than what I had penned originally. Thanks, so much, gentlemen!!!
If you are reading this, you did me a great favor of time...thanks.