You come for fear of the other men,
the ones who wait at the port
for the ship to dock.
You know they want
a sea captain. You know
that my waist is still supple,
my legs still strong.
You know how much money
I send home but you know
how much the men at the port
waiting there leaning on the ropes
think a captain has when she returns.
I’ll come home,
walk down the unsteady board
to you, the wind on your face,
your hair freshly washed.
Smelling not of salt and yeast,
the thick smells of the ship
and its women.
Smelling like earth,
peppery and warm,
you’ll wear your good jacket.
We’ll walk together
home to the stew you’ve made,
to the house carefully arranged,
the fiddle in the corner. I’ll wait for you to play;
I won’t ask. I’ll start to clean up.
You’ll take the fiddle to the back.
You’ll play, the fiddle so small
in your hands, face bent over it, eyes closed.
You’ll play the ancient song
that makes a woman’s legs grow land-bound
and unable to go to sea.
The rite that rarely works but could.
You’ll play, your large hands, one black nail,
one blood blister, the calluses and notches
in your finger tips, the song too long,
too hopeful and strange, too much
in it of what we know is wrong,
sinful even to ask for.
I don’t want to be at the prow of a ship.
I don’t want the women waiting
for their orders. I don’t want the gasping
deaths of the fish dumped out on the deck.
I want the pagan love song
my husband plays to keep me here.
Copyright © Persea Books 2011
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.