Today's poem is by Annie Boutelle

Marriage Bed
Celia Thaxter, Appledore Island, September 1851

We leave them.
Mother's face wind-flushed
and Father bending low
to Jonas's whispered jokes.

We close the door on their noise,
their light, and step into coldness,
the first frost of September,
stars sharp as blades.

Muskrats rustle under roots
as we walk single-file down
the path to my husband's
house, its marriage bed
shipped from Watertown
by grudging Thaxters.

It has rocked its way
to Appledore and lies
now, placid, counterpane
drawn tight, beside
nightstand and
watery mirror.

He talks of Roman
marriage, the bride's hair
parted with the point of a spear.
He whispers of sacred bread, wolf
fat spread near the door, and crocus
petals falling on silk sheets.

Beneath the counterpane, coarse
wool, and linen dense with starch.


Later, I will know
that he called my name.

But, at the time,
at his first crisis,
"Seal," he cries,
and then again,
"my seal."

And I wonder
is he the letter, smooth,
unopened, the surface
polished white, and the firm
folds hiding the contents;
and I the warmed wax
yielding to the imprint?

Or does he mean the seal
whose sea-dark head breaks
sleek through the white
of blown-back spray,
and is he the rock I spiral
round, this island with its hard
and shining crevices, its cliffs,
its graveled coves?


Leaving him flopped and pale,
she slips from the marriage bed
with its carved leaves
and stubborn orbs of fruit.

She sets the basin on the floor,
pours water from the ewer,
and crouches, close to the stand,
to wash. On the island

of Marathonist, Helen
crouched like this, near
a chipped basin, the cloth harsh
and cold between her legs;

and he who had dared pass
judgment on Aphrodite,
he lay there, like a flounder,
hooked, hauled, gutted,

flung down on the slab—
all that was essential
filleted from him—nothing
left but flesh.

Copyright © 2004 Annie Boutelle All rights reserved
from Beloit Poetry Journal
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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