poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

s9wJTAnqJXc

About this Poem 

This poem was commissioned for We the Poets, a collaborative project with the National Archives and the Academy of American Poets to celebrate American Archives Month in October 2014. To read more about the project and to view related photographs and documents from the National Archives, visit the Prologue: Pieces of History blog.

Much Tattooed Sailor Aboard USS New Jersey

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 right is leaning in,
           his fingers touching the other man’s skin,
tracing what looks like the top of an anchor
           or the intricate hilt of a sword, perhaps
wiping blood from the artful laceration,
           in his other hand something crumpled,
his cap I think or a cloth to shine brass,
           lights on a bulkhead, fittings and fixtures,
because let’s not forget this picture
           must be posed, the men interrupted—
mops laid down, ropes left uncoiled, or else
           on a smoke break, Zippo and Lucky Strikes
put aside—the men shirtless on a deck,
           legs bent at beautiful angles,
a classical composition this contrast
           of bodies and dungarees, denim gone black
and their shoulders full of shadow—
           although on second thought how effortless
this scene, both of them gazing toward
           a half-seen tattoo so that we too lean in
trying to make out the design on the bicep,
           close enough we can almost smell the salt
of them and the oil of machinery,
           which is of course the point, as when in a poem
I call the cruiser’s engine a pulse inside my palm
           or describe my husband’s uniform,
ask him to repeat the litany of ships and billets,
           how one deployment he sliced himself
on a piece of pipe and how the cut refused
           to shut for months—Hold still, I tell him,
I need to get the exquisite outline of your scar.

Copyright © 2014 by Jehanne Dubrow. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2014 by Jehanne Dubrow. Used with permission of the author.

Jehanne Dubrow

Jehanne Dubrow

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.

by this poet

poem
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
poem

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.

poem

Throughout this course,
we’ll study the American
landscape of our yard, coiled line

of the garden hose,
muddy furrows in the grass
awaiting our analysis,

what’s called close reading
of the ground. And somewhere
something will yip in pain

perhaps, a paw caught in a

2

collected in

collection
To celebrate American Archives Month in October we collaborated with t...