The Shrimper’s New Wife
~This poem previously appeared in Poet Lore (2002).
For months I’d go to the docks after work
to see the shrimp boats come in at low tide,
their outriggers balancing and diesel engines humming.
On the Southern Sylkie there was one
particular man, a striker.
He was redheaded and red-chested.
I’d watch him hold the door ropes taut,
the sugarline still out. One day I felt my legs stiffen.
Something in my heart, too long underwater,
began to soften.
I watched the solid curve of his shoulders
as he loosened the bag knots and spooled
in the nets. Flecks of fin and scale
refracted light onto his face.
He sifted the catch, then shoveled
back the rest. The gulls, pelicans, and terns
spun in their ravenous dance.
Now each day he comes home at dusk,
tosses gear and deck boots on the floor.
I open my dress to his rough hands.
He pulls me toward him, to the wave
he carries within his body,
through that other ocean and toward that other dock—
the one I’ve been missing.