For weeks, I breathe his body in the sheet and pillow. I lift a blanket to my face. There’s bitter incense paired with something sweet, like sandalwood left sitting in the heat or cardamom rubbed on a piece of lace. For weeks, I breathe his body. In the sheet I smell anise, the musk that we secrete
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Even on weekends the cruiser
would shudder, flicker spaces
with a redorange blink,
then a gasket crack or a valve stick shut
as if by weather or malicious hands,
the engine room home
of all catastrophe.
I would stretch and reach
across the bed to find furrowed sheets
where my husband had slept until 3 a.m.,
when he answered the captain calling,
whose perpetual fury machine
was the only system that never broke,
and my husband would yessir to him
who was steamingmad on the ship,
before slipping into the chill of coveralls,
the blueblack uniform of service,
which in a certain light
had the confining fit of love.
Jehanne Dubrow is the author of four poetry collections, including most recently Red Army Red (TriQuarterly Books, 2012) and Stateside (TriQuarterly Books, 2010). She is director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House and an associate professor of creative writing at Washington College, where she edits the national literary journal, Cherry Tree.