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The First Station

March 19, 2013 by · No comments

E.K. Mortenson

E.K. Mortenson
Photo: OpenSkyMedia

I know what happens in the mines.
Men, far from homes and families;
days below ground in the darkness,
nights lurking with women, girls,
the dust on their feet, in their hair.

I see my husband twice in the year
when I take the bus to the mines.
We have little time together.
He asks about the village,
his mother, my father,
while he takes off his shirt.

He is thinner now, I see his ribs,
shoulder blades, count his vertebrae.
There are scratches along his back, on his neck.
His fingernails are brittle and yellow.
I ask if he is well, he answers
only that the mines are dangerous.

He watches me fumble the buttons on my blouse.
We have been married three years,
but I am still embarrassed.
He comes to help me, moving my hands aside.
He is still a stranger to me.

He seems somehow less to me, lighter, less present,
though I have not seen him for nearly eight months.
What weight he has presses me down, secure.
An unruly spring in this bed has found a place
in my side just above my hip.

He pants in my ear and I imagine
I hear the same sounds drift out from the other bunks—
I was not the only young wife on the bus.
I roll myself under him, my hips,
fleshy, meet his, bony and hard.

He collapses into me and the bedspring punctures my skin.
I whisper again if he is well.
His breath slows, I feel him wheeze
—the dust rattling in his chest—
I feel the bed beneath me grow warm and wet around the bedspring.

Slowly, absently, I trace my fingers along his back,
sliding them gently through the film of his sweat.
He must be well. He is my husband and must be well.

This poem is available in E.K. Mortenson’s book The Fifteenth Station ( Accents Publishing , 2012)

Categories: Frontpage · poetry


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