Drifting under the ocean rather than over
as ships do, as eyes do, he wrote letters.
Pages creased and folded, envelopes stuffed
and stamped. Writing as counterspell, against
thoughts that quantified how much space he filled,
of how much space the air filled—how detectable
the displacement of water. In smooth slide somewhere
between beds and breaker, his chemist mind twisted
around what percent of the salt-tinged air
recirculating was the fear of the man standing
next to him, how much was his. Instead, he wrote
of an island, a surfacing for supplies not combat. A man
of middle country, shore meant distance, foreign
as landlocked to an island native, but he wrote
to her of fruit, the palms, the water stretching out
greater than the grains growing back home.
In his submarine, close air stifled, stale
with the scents of bodies. He wrote of abandoning
science, of the flower shop he’d open back home in Indiana.
He licked the glue of the paper protecting his promises.
Nearby, shorelines of islands shifted, shuddered, under
a bombardment of shells. His words, those pages,
were the scents of the tropics. The beaches. The blooms.
Christine Spillson’s work is published or forthcoming in journals like Boulevard, Diagram, apt, and Redivider. A graduate of the MFA program at George Mason University, she now teaches at Salisbury University on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.