A bee once stung my mouth, you see.
I learned to tread the water's edge,
ream oranges, and sunny dawns drown
honeycombs in pools of salt and lye.
They'll say I never was a steady gal,
but long before you came again
I'd started drawing maps, each route
where X was the rag-tatted lace I would place
near my carpenter's warm human heart.
They'll say I was sea-drunk, skirts netting
old cod; these bowed hips (they'll say)
could do nothing but buy. Cheap as sand dollars,
faithless as women can be,
when the sea spit you back
I raced out of my carpenter's pine-hearted arms
with a ring finger tattooed salt white.
Six ships carried you on the salt
salt sea, and one moored on land
to ferry me. Gold-heavy they bobbed,
ruby-laden they swayed all your hulls
to point east Friday morn.
They've told it before and they'll tell
it again: how I loved you like stars
on a scale. What they miss so do I:
my carpenter's lathe-riddled hands,
birch-white band last I tucked
in his pence-empty seams. The truth
of the matter is I always knew you:
gravestone heels, flash of teeth,
viper tongue. Lye won't scratch.
But bees return, too, and I knew
how to do it. My hands were as clumsy as mice.
They'll say hollow and mean it, but how
could they see just how sweet I can spin?
It was ten holes I made that day: him, you, and me.
How those bows tackled under like ice.
We see land but the orchid-teeth sand's
not for us. Seven ships I set skimming
across the salt sea; let your sins be kissed
breathless by water. I win.