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Boats for Women

Sandra Yannone

ISBN: 978-1-912561-52-0

Page Count: 98

Publication Date: Thursday, March 28, 2019

Cover Artwork: Image: Duncan Green

About this Book

Silence. Disaster. Desire. Hope. These cardinal directions navigated by Sandra Yannone’s Boats for Women plot intersections and transgressions of the personal and historical like a cartographer drafting a nautical chart. Utilizing a range of free verse and traditional forms, Yannone’s poems transmit distress calls from the decks of R.M.S. Titanic and other maritime disasters; they channel Bess Houdini's crossover into the modern world; and they document how women discover and recover from the intimacies of loving each other through time. Divided into four sections, Boats for Women amplifies and survives the split-second when the everyday turns into catastrophe; the moment of impact when knowing and unknowing collide; the fusion of before and after. And after that. All constellate here in Yannone’s first full-length collection to orient us toward that “choice/ to turn toward a sacred face, a turn// toward your own longing to live.” 

Author Biography

Sandra Yannone grew up near the edge of the Atlantic Ocean off Long Island Sound in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. Her interest in the Titanic disaster of 1912 sparked a dialogue with Ireland, the country where Titanic was built (Belfast) and her last port of call (Cobh, formerly Queenstown), as well as with other international sites connected with the disaster. Her poems and book reviews have appeared in numerous print and online journals including Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, The Stony Thursday Book, Glass: A Poetry Journal, Women’s Review of Books, The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, CALYX: A Journal, and Seattle Review. She has written numerous articles about the intersections between poetry and social justice for the monthly newspaper Works in Progress. Her work has received the Academy of American Poets Prize and an AWP Intro Award. She earned her B.A. in writing and literature from Wheaton College (MA); an M.F.A. from Emerson College; and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Currently, she is the Faculty Director of the Writing Center at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA. 

Read a sample from this book

Thirty-Seven Days of Homework

She says, Patience, over a surprise transatlantic call
on day eighteen. And I hear, September or longer.

She says, I am ready to come home. And I ask,
Which one? The one she leaves me

stupefied in for thirty-seven days, while she 
searches other countries for saints and frescos 

and dying fathers, or the one I dream of
remaking upon her return. I say, I am here,

to myself sitting on the front porch under the tepid stars, 
sipping lemon tea laced with artesian honey. I say this 

to myself on day thirty as I am more than a little 
afraid to tell her that nowhere in the world 

where I’ve just traveled—Limerick, 
Kinsale, Cobh, or Prague—

feels like home without her.  And this house
I return to in America alone bears the proof. 

The windows need cleaning. 
The empty chair next to me sighs

under the weeping willow. The temple bells 
do not clink their unusual glassy tunes. 

They say, Only when she returns 
will we let in zealous air songs. 

The grass will weep with gratitude 
for the feel of her feet. Every garden plant 

will bend to reach her sun. The cat’s fur 
stripes will stretch out in approval. 

And finally, next to her, on day thirty-eight,
I will long to say, I feel at home.


All those years behind tinted windows.
On the go, a passport tucked in my back

Pocket waiting for reprieve, a passionate
Travelling, always hurt, head against mine.

Unfinished prisons, flying fire, worthless,
Worthwhile dreams. I chose the former

That I was the way I could not
Stand. The world now as belly

Recovers a woman, a man I must
Miracle and finally disrobe. 

Bess Houdini Recalls the Curtain in the Modern World

Sometimes the hall window holds
the echo of your face. It overrules
the dark, and the applause like glass
breaking returns. We’re together
again, propped behind the curtain,
waiting for the cloth to rise and bunch
to take our bows. Your left hand picks
the same lock in my back each night
to rest upon. Sometimes, here,
after all the defiances, I feel
alone and grope for the woman
left rusting in the drapery
like an abandoned key. I hear 
the stage’s edge call, my feet 
easily wanting the drop and the crowds,
their hands on all the unrehearsed
places. Harry, you set out to disillusion 
the world. Is this why
the window loves you?

Boats for Women

Yes, the boat sank. Yes, it broke in two like a stereotypical heart before it plummeted to depths no one could measure until seventy years later technology caught up and looked its ancestor in the face. Yes is the way the years oxidize the steel, and yes wipes the name Titanic off the bow. Yes are the lifeboats, the davits, the call for women and children first. Yes are the men who cry from the decks. Sometimes when I kiss her, I am leaving a yes on her lips to remind her that I will go down with the ship. Sometimes when she whispers yes, she is staying on board. But there is always room in the lifeboats for two more women. Yes is the fact that if we were alive on that night, we would have lived. 

Copyright © Sandra Yannone 2019

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