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Years ago when the men left the women
or the lover left or was left by her lover
and one of them boarded the White-Sailed Ship
bound for one promising continent or the other
there was no global cell phone to power up on her arrival
and no e-mail not even Internet in the Tropical Paradise
which had grand furnishings and dark rum and pioneer-type men
while the other who was not in this paradise
sat down at her desk under a London-Gray
or CambridgeMassachusettsInWinter-Gray window
on which it was raining and dashed off a letter
and bound it with string and sealed it with wax
and bundled it aboard the Very Next White-Sailed Ship
bound for the correct continent and months passed
and months passed until she had to wonder
a) did the ship with her letter go down?
b) did the ship with her lover go down?
c) did her lover find another pioneering lover whose ship had come in?
and she paced and pined and paced until her slippers wore out
and then she climbed to the top of the house
where she battled the treachery of wind through a trapdoor
to get out on the widow’s walk
where at least she could see the ocean
and spit on it and slosh her whiskey over it and howl at the moon
or in a more hopeful moment think “same moon!”
and after all this she expected her lover’s letter and her lover
less and less though there were still some days
too many days when she thought she was dying
for the appearance of a bright white sail
that had never been sent by a lover she’d never see again.
But she didn’t die. She got older.
She arrived at a moral. Always the story is the same.
The men leave the women and the women leave the women
though this year a cell phone will work anywhere and everywhere
has Wi-Fi especially the Promising Pioneer Paradise
which has grand furnishings dark rum an infinity pool and you.
And always the questions are the same too:
Are you reading this? Will you be writing back?

Brittany Perham

Double Portrait
W. W. Norton & Company

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