On a tactile level, we are reminded of the common experience of salt in this poem by Amy McCann. How it cures and crimps, the taste of tears on your face or floating, mouth open and vulnerable, in the sea. We are also introduced to a complicated voice who describes herself as “The lick I am.” The wife that “put everything I loved behind me.” Perhaps we are meeting Lot’s wife—a nameless female who was turned into a pillar of salt as punishment. I was struck by how this poem successfully illuminates the narrator’s emotional as well as physical experiences beyond what is offered in the original story. And as a powerful, persona poem, I find the “Salt Wife” to be deeply relatable and poignant today.
“Salt Wife,” by Amy McCann
Cured to permanent gown, a mineral
seep—all tears, all weep. The lick I am.
The lips I’ll crimp in the swap
of elements—the more of them,
the more I melt. My backdrop
old smoke in the shape of tents,
my city most flagrant in absence—
gutted cavity under the stilted SOS of stars.
I have been sustained by distant fires.
I have harbored desire for deciduous places.
I put everything I loved behind me.
If you kiss me, the taste of drowning.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Written by: Amy McCann
Amy McCann’s debut collection, Yes Thorn, was published by Tupelo Press. Other recent work has appeared in the Kenyon Review, Gettysburg Review, and West Branch. She lives in Minneapolis and teaches writing at the University of Northwestern–Saint Paul.