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Set Jerusalem Above My Highest Joy
        —Psalm 137

Every marriage is arranged to be broken.  There is the light bulb wrapped in a napkin, which the groom wedges beneath his heel.  We say mazel tov at the snap of glass.  It’s tradition:  this ruined temple, this mandatory grief.  The bride is wrapped in cloth.  No one can see her incandescence—we’re all too busy saying luck has happened here.  She’s burning with a last electricity that comes from being wholly all alone.  It’s hard to hear her shatter.  We stomp our feet to the shudder of the accordion, how it gasps then holds its breath again.


Café Con Leche

It’s ten-thirty at night.  My mother leans across the stove to check the boil on the milk, whisk in her left hand, a jar of Folgers in her right.  Her mouth purses in what looks like a kiss but is only a little breath to stop the liquid from forming a skin.  We’ve been standing in the kitchen, talking about marriage, not wanting to sit or fall asleep.  So she uses the recipe she learned as a little girl.  Sometimes, she says, what’s sweetest and most flavorful comes from the fake stuff.  I watch her dissolve brown crystals in the pot.  It’s true.  The coffee tastes like coffee.  With my eyes closed, I can’t tell the difference, which has always been the problem for women in my family—the way so many of us would rather drink something instant, that bitterness can be hidden with enough spoonfuls of sugar, or how good it feels to burn our fingers on a chipped, ceramic mug.


The Replacement Ring

This time my husband bought one-size-too-small, the band resisting water, soap, unbudgeable no matter how he worried it, so that soon he quit trying to pry it from his hand, the arc carving a concave pinkness in his skin. How shiny the metal looked against my ring, a gleaming difference of years, all those knocks and scratches, which come from moving objects and ourselves. I can hardly remember how it felt at first—to put on the sudden weight of platinum, how salt or weather seemed to shrink the loop. This, my husband says, is marriage. Something difficult to fit. And once we enter it, once we slide inside its circle, we learn to bend our bodies to its curve.  



Jehanne Dubrow is the author of four poetry collections, including most recently Red Army Red and Stateside (Northwestern UP, 2012 and 2010).  Her work has appeared in Poetry, New England Review, Southern Review, and Ploughshares.  She is the Director of the Rose O'Neill Literary House and an assistant professor of creative writing at Washington College, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.