The Woman Who Came At Locking Time


It was the season when a young man’s fancy

Turns to hunkering down as the land around him locks,

When the envoys of the abyss stalk elderly relatives and spindly late-born calves.

He’d happened upon her at Aubuchon’s Hardware over in Gouverneur,

Picking up bits and bobs to tie up those projects

(The endless caulking, the pitched battles with plaster and lath)

Which had trickled over the spillway of spring and summer

When she more or less materialized,

Like the sudden bloom of some ill-timed crocus through fallen leaves.

She’d quizzed him on the merits of various levels, cup hooks, and spackles

(The story being she’d leased a gerrymandered third-floor studio

Over the Rent-A-Center on Clinton Street)

They’d chatted in the middle of an aisle for a half-hour or so

When she tittered You know, I could really use a beer about now,

Which became several, then burgers, then his house and bed

Where she settled in for the duration

(She’d had her suitcases in her trunk, and he came to surmise

That an apartment hadn’t been in her plans at all.)

He’d learned about her what little she chose to share:

A nut allergy, a borderline prodigal capacity for whiskey,

Certain boudoir practices and positions,

But her whos, whats and wherefores

Were an admixture of carefully chosen quarter-truths and outright fictions

(He’d noticed, inadvertently, a half-dozen driver’s licenses in her purse,

And she’d been furiously tight-lipped about where’d she been and come from,

Save one drunken mention of how she’d lived down near Ithaca

Just long enough to stand on the precipice of one of the town’s plethora of gorges

Before deciding not to go headlong over the edge,

‘S no real point, she demurred, in anything that puts a period on sumpin’.)


There was no question of some Snow White happily-ever-after;

She melted away as abruptly as she’d arrived,

Leaving on an implausibly warm late-February day,

A deceit of sunshine and southerly breezes

Which belied the month-plus of hard slog ahead.

He’d cherished no illusions of going after her, of tracking her down:

There was small chance she’d given him her real name,

Assuming she knew it at this point,

And she’d changed her cell number in a matter of hours.

He’d done his best to simply chalk it up as a lesson learned

Or a hell of a hell of a story to share with the boys at Nina’s Hotel,

But she had become (or, rather, the notion of what she might have become,

As all faithless acts require acquiescence to the existence of faith)

A giant hogweed in his very sinews, invasive and implacable,

All but impervious to destruction and subsequent reclamation,

And the throes of her remained as confabulations in his mind and heart and groin

All through what turned out to be the longest of long North Country winters,

With flurry and sleet enjoying dominion over new blooms

Until well into the middle of May.






8 thoughts on “The Woman Who Came At Locking Time

  1. Such a rich use of words in this piece to delight one with a more old-fashioned vocabulary:
    gerrymandered, prodigal, plethora, acquiescence and the wonderful combo of invasive and implacable.

    I think I must impose on you for a word list prompt in the very near future!

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