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Poem: The Boat Builder’s Wife


I know there are others, see their traces
on your clothing, the scratches, the bruises.
Cara Mia’s mahogany curls clung like burrs
to your sweater. Three years with Neith,
who ran off to the islands and never returned.
Clara, that minx, left a sail-shaped scar
on your scalp, but Circe took the tips
of two fingers. I can’t forgive her.

Each night the scent of varnish, cedar,
your pockets full of bungs and tarnished
hardware the same verdigris as your eyes.
Each night a transient restoration—
you swing in gimballed sleep between
sole, overhead and ceiling,
between forepeak and lazarette,
and I, your tender, ferry you
back to the morning shore, to the ones
who await the chisel and the plane
in your steady hands.

Leslie McGrath is a poet and literary interviewer living in Stonington, CT. Winner of the 2004 Pablo Neruda Prize for poetry, she is the author of Opulent Hunger, Opulent Rage (2009), a poetry collection, and Out From the Pleiades: a novella in verse (Jaded Ibis Press, forthcoming). Her chapbook focusing on mental illness and stigma, By the Windpipe, is forthcoming from ELJ Publications. Her poems have recently appeared in The Awl, Agni, and The Common. She teaches creative writing and literature at Central Connecticut State University, and is editor of The Tenth Gate, a new poetry imprint of The Word Works press.

Image Credits: Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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