She Used to Say
“How many loves, Senora?” she used to say.
“Perhaps twenty,” I would tell her.
I was forty when I married,
and I had traveled the world.
She had married at fifteen
and was a mother at sixteen.
By twenty-six, she was a mother of five.
When he drank cerveza,
he had beaten her.
She had not missed him when he left.
No more men, her children had demanded
and she’d agreed,
for the young man from El Chante who courted her now
was handsome and had money
but was not in her heart.
Still, I could see her pining
over the tall Arab
who hired the men of her pueblo.
He neither looked at her nor talked to her.
But in the night, I imagine she pined,
Arabian nights unreeling in her imagination
impossible and foreign.
One day, returning early,
I found her asleep on the divan,
a Mexican novella
rolling out of the television
into the eyeless air.
What futile dreams superseded
all these vicarious heartaches?
What magnolia-scented air
slumbered heavy in the hot layers of her sleep?
“How many loves?” she had asked me
on the road home from Guadalajara.
“Oh, many loves, “ I told her.
“I was forty when I married,
and I had traveled the world.”