A Strangerís Needs
by Lois P. Jones
(Chateau) Muzot was extremely primitive. The rooms were comfortable,
but there was no electricity and no running water in the house.
—Frida Baumgartner, housekeeper, 1921-1926.
In the beginning I knew nothing. Not of the steel
pots that required constant scrubbing, or the way
to press a shirt of linen—wait for the iron to smell
like burnt leaves on an October morning.
Not of how to bathe in a castle without plumbing—
cotton cloth dipped in an icy pail of water, a dab
of lavender soap to scent the skin. Nothing of how
to undress by paraffin lamp in the cold knot of December
or the desires of a body at twenty-six, all of me rising
into the belly. I had to learn to be invisible.
He wanted another Leni—a woman who walked like a cat
by moonlight and understood his needs with a single look.
How could I find my way to a man who has no map?
Sometimes I would say to the mirror,
this is not the life you promised. Sometimes I would say
to the bed, someone will carry me like a candle to their chapel.
Published in Spillway