The Widows of Relleu
The widows are there at the Requiem Mass
and the cemetery,
advising, supporting, enfolding.
They know the pain, even the secret relief.
In death a man becomes the perfect husband,
in life they had their own opinions.
The local women have a non-interference rule –
a single bruise, maybe she deserved it,
broken ribs and their own men
may be asked to ‘have a word’.
A period of mourning is allowed
before the new widow is persuaded out
to sit and chat on the front doorstep.
One of the sisterhood will suggest a trip
to the supermarket – they’ve been doing
her shopping for days, weeks, however long
the process of re-emergence takes.
Hairdresser’s next – she needs a perm
and, now her husband cannot forbid it,
a change of colour.
On market day the widow joins her friends
for coffee at Pepe’s,
watches the world go by,
greets passersby with a regal nod,
accepting their sympathy as her right.
She is ready to make her debut –
that evening she will join the widows
for the paseo and, arm-in-arm,
they’ll walk slowly around the town,
as they did when they were girls.