An old French form, a love-lorn 

serenade. At dawn I bade you 

farewell at the door, slipping 

my tongue in your mouth 

as if I could inscribe my name 

on the tip of yours. Aubade. 

How passionately we obeyed 

our bodies’ biddings until 

it was time for you to leave 

my abode. If I could bring you back 

by plying our trade, playing with words 

the way you would, I would. If I could 

feel your tongue stir beside mine

again, as we shared one last kiss 

for the road—ah, babe—I’d hold on 

longer, knowing the end I now 

know. You loaded bags in the trunk, 

boots, a box of books, pages 

and pages of poems written 

in a diner that serves breakfast 

all day. Aubade. A ballad sung as we 

part and depart for parts unknown. 

I lie on the unmade bed we made

love on and read your poems aloud, 

each word cold in my mouth

like a polished stone. 

Outer Banks

Your mouth tastes of mint, cigarettes, and salt. 

Here, on the edge of the continent, we walk 

as waves drive us up the dunes and Cleo, 

your blue heeler pup, herds us back together. 

Your salt-and-pepper hair curls at the collar, 

wild in the wind. You slicked it down in the mirror,

but nature has its own mind. I like the gray stubble 

on your chin, your Cool Water and cannabis cologne. 

At the tidemark, I search for shells, calico scallops 

and clams without jagged edges or cracks, 

while you hand me broken pieces worn smooth 

by waves, lustrous fragments that look like jade, 

a white petal with a purple stripe. Maybe I could bore 

a hole in it and wear it on a cord around my neck, I say. 

You hand me more and more and more until my pockets 

overflow. Rubbing a smooth gray shard, I worry 

that we don’t have enough in common, that you smoke 

too much, that I don’t always understand or like your jokes, 

that sometimes you hug me so hard my ribs hurt, 

pinning me to the hotel bed as if I’ll float away 

without the weight of your body to anchor me, 

that you keep an unopened bottle of booze  

in your house to prove to yourself that you won’t 

drink it, that you got the DT’s when you quit, 

that your heart was so enlarged you almost 

died but you don’t think you’re an alcoholic, 

that you say you love me after knowing me only 

two weeks, that I’ll drown in these rough currents. 

Cleo lassoes your feet, leaping to lick your hand as I lag 

behind, still seeking that one perfect shell in the sand. 

Beth Copeland is the author of three full-length poetry books: Blue Honey, recipient of the 2017 Dogfish Head Poetry Prize; Transcendental Telemarketer; and Traveling through Glass, recipient of the 1999 Bright Hill Press Poetry Book Award. Her poems have been published in literary magazines and anthologies and have been featured on international poetry websites. She has been profiled as poet of the week on the PBS NewsHour website. Beth lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains where she owns and runs Tiny Cabin, Big Ideas™, a retreat for poets, writers, and artists.