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Today’s guest poet —  Mary Biddinger

Shipwreck

His name wasn’t even a word.
You could never ask him to make the tea.
Glass broke in his hands, and storms

kicked out their best hail when he stood
beneath a willow. I’d exhale his name
instead of counting down the days.

The last time I pressed my body
against the length of his screen door
I hoped the sunset would burn through.

He was always running a fever.
The doctors said he turned cold instead
of hot. That’s not what his mouth

told me. There were hundreds of bats
in the attic, but none of them listened.
I felt we were never alone. He said:

what is this sliver of wood for, if not
the hull of a miniature ship, shattered
on the rocks, some woman who lured it

there, and a sailor who would spend
the rest of his life trying to carve her
out of Ivory soap. His wife walking in

on him, the thing in his hand, a knife,
a word the woman could never say
but couldn’t stop saying. His wife

adjusting the shower curtain, asking
how he had cut his knee. The woman
on a bus five minutes down the road.

He knew exactly which alley they’d
exit to, which of his hands would move
up her back first, the direction her skirt

would fall. The frozen lake that did not
regard any of this with much interest.
The temperament of the sky above.

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