I have lived as a careful wife

though my husband knows of

my one scarlet secret:

I might go back to sea,

wanderlust long ago sewn into

my indecent fish scales,

stitched with emeralds, lapus lazuli.


I am unable to let him go—

his passion, so earthly, fills me.

With jewels, waving sea grass hair,

I’m his rowdy German meerfrau,

bewitching like white sea foam,

my abalone mirror and harp,

gathering dust.


He might come home weighed

down with drudgery, open

a heavy door to formica

and linoleum, or instead

barnacled treasure chests,

seaweed cascading out of windows,

marine music, whale and dulcimer.


Is it arousing for a fisherman,

my uncontrollable mutability?

My gestalt inexpressible

at village bratwurst barbecues,

but real enough past midnight

when he starts, bolt upright,

gasping for air, his legs tangled

in damp spiraling sheets,

his dreams full of shipwrecks.



                        --Karen Braucher

                        from Aqua Curves (copyright 2005),

                        first published in the journal The Oregon  Review



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