Letter to a Loving Husband

by Irma Kiss Barath

Charles, let me tell you what I saw:
in the last leg of our journey,
rats ate the victuals. I had hoped
for stars and jewels, yet here the ship
spat back something hollow and actual.
In our hunger, we gnawed on oars
and barrel planks like teething babies.

On the seventh day, we saw a blot
creased in the distance. From closer
it became an island, of a curious
shifting beauty. Heady visions sprouted
behind our eyes and for the first time
I saw the water clinging to our ship.

Then, strange noseless animals
slapping our ship’s wooden hull,
mussels flapping their shells and birds
noising loudly on the seashore.

But Charles, if you only saw the island’s
burning eels. These toothless creatures,
plunged into a bucket, will make water
boil. Already we have plucked an elver
to heat our humble camp, to light up
the teeming blue beach. It’s true,
since arriving we have burnt nothing,
not a twig.

But the nights are new and fitful,
our hands wet guests in this land
without people. We pray:
Let sweat succeed the
seawater beating the rocks,
Let the sea stay still and low.
I lay here, my back padded in bumps
and open bites, if only to bid you:

Tonight when you lay down your head
smell this salt smell with me
think of the water clubbing itself
and drift like a sea-cleaned pebble
into sleep. Forget the unstoppable
coming silence, the clear
airless waters, free of life.

Think instead of your love
standing here wishful
with her fistful of fish.