To my wife in France this Belgian lace.
To my wife in Lisbon a penny whistle.
My wives, with your rag curls, your box braids,
your pin straight hair scraped tight, you who laid me
down like a dress with the seams ripped out, studying
the pattern to remake me in a different cloth,
I cannot give enough of me to keep a cold night warm.
To my wife in the Carolinas her letters and this nightgown,
still crushed with her scent. To my wife in Belize,
a fresh Bay leaf. Far from their arms I am unlaced and loose.
Someone else had my measure. Someone else
stitched me back into a woman’s fit.
In Amsterdam there is a woman who lives above a spice shop
and whose white pepper skin burned my lips.
She shared her bed with me but would not let me kiss,
only pressed my face to hers to marry our breaths.
She declined to wear a ring. To her a lump of cake
soaked in rum. To her a bag of soft brown sugar.
I have been drunk and I have ached with sweet.
My English wife has the keeping of this document.
Rebecca Hazelton is the author of Fair Copy, winner of the 2011 Ohio State University Press / The Journal Award in Poetry, and Vow, from Cleveland State University Press. She was the 2010-11 Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellow at the University of Wisconsin, Madison Creative Writing Institute and winner of the “Discovery” / Boston Review 2012 Poetry Contest. Her poems have appeared in AGNI, The Southern Review, Boston Review, Best New Poets 2011, and Best American Poetry 2013.