The Hypotenuse

I’VE read so much about it, these late times, —
The living triangle and all the tangle that it makes
In human lives, — and I have thought
We had one here for many, many years,
But had no tangle in our quiet lives —
We three who lived it out — quite happily.
You see there’s Luther and myself, now Abbie’s gone,
Left to plod through the years of our allotted lives.
Brother and I were raised upon a lonely farm
With but one neighbor’s house and that close by,
And in that house was Abbie — so you see
She was to us the only girl we knew.
Since then I’ve read of many women and their ways,
Helen and Dido, Troy and Carthage claimed,
Britain’s Boadicea, haughty queen;
Israel’s Ruth, our Bible taught of her,
And hosts of others. Yet to us, Luther and me,
In those old days Abbie was all in one;
I will not say, because’t was all we knew,
But rather that she had the virtues of the lot.
It seems so, even to this day.
My uncle Luther died and left a legacy to brother
For his name; to us it seemed a goodly sum;
And then I felt the time had come to speak.
When first the touch of spring was in the air,
And pussies showed on willows by the brook;
When clouds raked low, and often spattered rain,
And in the gullies of the north-sloped hills
The snow still lingered, Luther and I had gone
To the hill pasture burning brush. I spoke.
‘Luther, it’s you,’ I said; ‘the legacy will smooth the way
And one of us must wed, because upon the farm
All goes at random where no woman dwells.
I will stay on and help, so make the home for all.’
And Luther, screening his face with hand and arm
From the fierce heat of dry and crackling brush,
Nodded, but spoke no word.
He little knew the fight I’d had with self
To lay the matter plainly for his choice.
And so they wed, and afterward I stayed
Always to help and work, just for (he common good.
Then in these after years, when age crept on
And years of toil had brought its recompense,
We all came here into the village house,
Because we owed it to the woman whom we loved
That she should have in her declining years
Companionship of others of her sex.
And when she went, we still lived on and did
The little things about the house as she had done.
The parlor’s just the same, the chairs and table
Where she set them first, the mats in place;
The potted plants are watered and put out,
On the warm days, to bask and blossom in the sun.
The cat is dead — we buried it, as she’d have wished,
Under our only apple tree, and Luther got the stone
From the old farm — as Abbie would have willed.
And so we sit here on the porch on pleasant days,
Two aged men, nor heed the passers-by;
We watch the grass show green in spring,
The summer come, and autumn cast its leaves,
A wind-borne mass, upon the lawn.
And the first snow — bewildered little flakes
That fall and melt — brings the one thought to each.
My hand finds Luther’s and the grasp proclaims
Our thoughts are of the place where Abbie lies.
And so, you see, we lived three fives in one,
A triangle — right-angled, as I’ve learned:
Abbie and Luther both alike, and I the hypotenuse.