Ocracoke
With undying love, to my husband.
Christmas 2013
In a letter to his wife, sure and seasoned,
he said, I will be back. I will cross channels

and oceans and islands and rushing rivers.
And for the rest of her years, his flannel

shirt that she made her own, caught her
tears as they might in a lover’s hold.

What are our days, she wrote,
or distances, or promises, or years,

if not one heartbeat measured out
in a country’s checkered grid, weave

in a cloth – worn, endeared. As once
in Ocracoke – barrier island, barrier

to all that does not hold against cruel winds
and so, not love, which holds and takes

its fortitude from simpler things: the stillness
that follows cruel words; the kiss that cools

ankle and wrist like a shore bird in low waters;
gestures of a land within a land –

a dress that I saw in a shop and I longed
as we ferried away, as a small girl longs

for sea winds catching its hem in a gust
of sea spray above my knees.  And you wanted

to please me because – I would come to see –
that is what lovers do.
Let’s go back, you said.

And I noticed the difference in miles for me
and you: what for me was a turn in our plans

and a girlish yearning, was for you love’s open hand –
a summer dress on a wooden hanger – ocean and sand

that we might reclaim like a sparrow’s song
played and replayed. No distances, no time –

I learned that day – no ferry we cannot take
from lover’s gift to lover’s ache.



Copyright © 2013  M. B. McLatchey. All rights reserved.
Published in
The Briar Cliff Review, Spring 2016.