She stands at the edge of the dock
thinking to set off
even the redeye of the storm.
But the boat drifts
dragging a net of obligations,
heavy barnacle gowns
clanking a train behind her.
Because the question is always hard
and the excuse each time is the same.
It forms a pearl under her tongue,
a defense mechanism
nacre forming around the hurt.
She doesn’t take this communion though
just strings each one together to make
jewelry that brings out her eyes, a necklace
to wear to parties.
She paces on the deck,
bow to stern, starboard
to port, a prayer walked
in long strides.
Knocking on wood for luck
doesn’t help, nor does
making tender knicks on knuckle bones
she will later sand down
at night when no one can look her in the face
and see in through darkened portholes.
It’s silly to build a getaway boat and keep it there
tethered, a pet
in its cinched collar
or is it a string of pearls gleaming at the throat?
One day that boat will tip, list in a swell
capsize, go down
to where previous wrecks stock-
pile, to where monsters hide in middens.
Boats are named for wives.
Husbands are the oceans.
After a storm
floats to the top
They say we only get one chance in life. No do-
overs or dress rehearsals. We appear on earth
and then fall away. One of the hardest things
to accept is that all around us are lives
we didn’t lead, the paths not taken because
we can only take one
and then we’re locked in
step. You breathe close to me and I am small embers
pinprick-bright. To think that I could
whisper your name and with my breath
I want to call myself a widow. She is a woman
whose husband has died, but that will never be
me. Then I realized it was me who died, or rather
I am that portrait,
a woman inscribed in flame,
eyes closed on the pyre
or maybe asleep. You disappeared, that door is shut
but everyone still sees
me. So I lit something else, a story
of a wandering off,
no, not of Penelope waiting
warming the hearth of a cold, empty
room; a story where my hands on display play the minor
chords, where your cold grasp exceeds my hot reach.
Genevieve DeGuzman’s work appears or is forthcoming in FOLIO, Ithaca Lit, Liminality, Reed Magazine, Strange Horizons, and Switchback, among other journals. She has been a winner of the Oregon Poetry Association New Poets Contest, a finalist for the Lauren K. Alleyne Difficult Fruit Poetry Prize, and a resident at Can Serrat.