Squint a little, and that’s my husband
in the photograph, the sailor on the left—
the one wearing a rose composed of ink
and the Little Bo Peep who stands
before a tiny setting sun and the blur
on his forearm which might be a boat—
while the sailor on
The Long Deployment
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 with longing, leather and moss. I find a trace of bitter incense paired with something sweet. Am I imagining the wet scent of peat and cedar, oud, impossible to erase? For weeks, I breathe his body in the sheet— crushed pepper—although perhaps discreet, difficult for someone else to place. There’s bitter incense paired with something sweet. With each deployment I become an aesthete of smoke and oak. Patchouli fills the space for weeks. I breathe his body in the sheet until he starts to fade, made incomplete, a bottle almost empty in its case. There’s bitter incense paired with something sweet. And then he’s gone. Not even the conceit of him remains, not the resinous base. For weeks, I breathed his body in the sheet. He was bitter incense paired with something sweet.
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.