That One Over

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(Mary McCarthy Lynch, 1867-1949)

She wore the china cabinet key around her neck As if she couldn’t trust even her long-time mate To keep from making off with a gold-rimmed plate To hock for whiskey money when he’d spent his check. And what was inside the cabinet, to warrant theft? China with chipped edges, “silver” that was silver plate, A cut crystal jam jar she grandly called a “vase,” A statue of Mary that a Lourdes priest had blessed. Everyone else in town thought her man hung the moon: She wouldn’t even call him by his Christian name. “That one over,” she’d say, pointing across the room. She made him sleep on the porch when he’d had a few. To be Irish then was to be awash in shame. He hadn’t deceived her yet, but you never knew.