With undying love, to my husband. ― Christmas 2013
In a letter to his wife, sure and seasoned,
he said, I will be back. I will cross channels
and oceans and islands and rushing rivers.
And for the rest of her years, his flannel
shirt that she made her own, caught her
tears as they might in a lover’s hold.
What are our days, she wrote,
or distances, or promises, or years,
if not one heartbeat measured out
in a country’s checkered grid, weave
in a cloth – worn, endeared. As once
in Ocracoke – barrier island, barrier
to all that does not hold against cruel winds
and so, not love, which holds and takes
its fortitude from simpler things: the stillness
that follows cruel words; the kiss that cools
ankle and wrist like a shore bird in low waters;
gestures of a land within a land –
a dress that I saw in a shop and I longed
as we ferried away, as a small girl longs
for sea winds catching its hem in a gust
of sea spray above my knees. And you wanted
to please me because – I would come to see –
that is what lovers do. Let’s go back, you said.
And I noticed the difference in miles for me
and you: what for me was a turn in our plans
and a girlish yearning, was for you love’s open hand –
a summer dress on a wooden hanger – ocean and sand
that we might reclaim like a sparrow’s song
played and replayed. No distances, no time –
I learned that day – no ferry we cannot take
from lover’s gift to lover’s ache.