Before the Deployment

Jehanne Dubrow
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

The Long Deployment

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		 	
	with longing, leather and moss. I find a trace  
of bitter incense paired with something sweet.   
	Am I imagining the wet scent of peat	
and cedar, oud, impossible to erase?
	For weeks, I breathe his body in the sheet— 
crushed pepper—although perhaps discreet,
	difficult for someone else to place.
There’s bitter incense paired with something sweet.  
	With each deployment I become an aesthete
of smoke and oak. Patchouli fills the space
	for weeks. I breathe his body in the sheet	
until he starts to fade, made incomplete,  	
	a bottle almost empty in its case.	
There’s bitter incense paired with something sweet.  
	And then he’s gone. Not even the conceit 	
of him remains, not the resinous base.	
	For weeks, I breathed his body in the sheet.	
He was bitter incense paired with something sweet.