"Portable Nipple"

I have got your letters,
and know you must be dead for me to have them.

I see you reading them in Portsmouth,
Vic writing from some unmentionable European town,
just over 151 pounds.
November, 1943.

You were his Honey,
his Sweetheart,
his Chekonkie;
your letters numbered
so he'd know if one failed to slip
between Hitler's bullets.

Did Victor's heaps of kisses
keep your bed as warm in Newport
as they did in Portsmouth?
Did his kisses go stale
in the months it took for them to reach you there?
I've been told that kisses remain fresh forever.
Is it true?

By December 15 Vic is quoting French.
"Au revoir," he says. "I love my baby."

Says he's down in the mouth
not having heard from you in nearly ten days.
he sends his Christmas menu:

roast turkey bread dressing
mashed potatoes giblet gravy
cranberry jelly creamed corn
cabbage and pineapple salad w/mayonnaise dressing
hot rolls pumpkin pie w/whipped cream
whipped cream crossed out
chocolate ice cream hard candy
butter apple butter
coffee beer

Why does he never use your name?
Who were you, my Honey?

He hopes you weren't too blue at Christmas,
and believes the cough will never go away.

In letter #28, you are the sweetest and best little wife in the world.
He's down from 151 to 148.

And now I find your first name's Rose.

Rose, darling, I miss you terribly.
Miss your hand-knit coats and long fingers of your gloves.
Wish I could have worn the blouses you sewed,
tasted your fruitcake, eaten the surviving crumbs
of your peanut butter cookies.

Victor loved you, too,
but never said in his letters
how he'd like to turn you over
and inside out with his tongue,
wanting to crawl inside your womb
if only to remember
what it was to be warm.

The war is over, Rose, Sweetheart,
and somewhere in Rhode Island
there is a photograph of Victor—
his expression aggressive,
a little gaunt (he's down to 143).

But even the photograph won't reveal
how much he needed to touch you.

In my own war, my lover also in some unmentionable European town,
there is no censor.
I could tell him exactly what it is i would do with our bodies
if they were together.

I can't imagine you touching yourself for him, Rose,
with all your packages of under shorts to prepare
and scarves to knit.

Can't hear your voice ring out in the blacked-out evening.
Can't hear your moans of excitement, fear, frustration, longing.
Can't hear the scratch of liquids down your cheeks.
Can't see your hand push the flesh of your breast,
Ian's name pressed tightly on your mouth.

In my own war, the lights are on.
In my own war, the music is turned up.
In my own war, the letters, so different.

[love poems]

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