Katherin Edwards
"The Brideship 1862"

The invoice reads,
It’s a fine shipment.
Sixty women, widow, orphans
a superior lot
stand bundled on the wharf
Milk faces, suitcases,
they quiver beneath dresses
sweetened with crinoline.
As one plaits her friend’s hair
washes coal from her cheek,
another draws satin ribbons
through the eyelets of her dress,
kisses away the knots.
Still the comeliest
counts with her doll,
one hundred men,
who retrain their suspenders,
spit-shine their boots,
sickle the wharf with smiles.
At the end of the dock,
the oldest man swings
one dead eye like a fish hook
back and forth,
back and forth,
hoping to catch the littlest.