Before the Deployment

He kisses me before he goes. While I,
still dozing, half-asleep, laugh and rub my face

against the sueded surface of the sheets,
thinking it’s him I touch, his skin beneath

my hands, my body curving in to meet
his body there. I never hear him leave.

But I believe he shuts the bedroom door,
as though unsure if he should change his mind,

pull off his boots, crawl beneath the blankets
left behind, his hand a heat against my breast,

our heart rates slowing into rest. Perhaps
all good-byes should whisper like a piece of silk—

and then the quick surprise of waking, alone
except for the citrus ghost of his cologne.

More by Jehanne Dubrow

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.