By Jacqueline Bengfort, Creative Writing Alumna

April 10, 2019

This poem was originally published in the chapbook for the 2018 Heroes’ Voices National Poetry Contest.


The guide spent half a day on frankincense:

This is where it comes from.

This is a field of frankincense trees.

This is how you get the sap.


And, now, this is how you chew it.

How you use it to perfume your clothing.

This is how it scents your home,

And even too safeguards your heart.


Convinced or not, I bought a bag to ship home,

Just as from Dubai I’d sent a thumbnail sliver of gold.

I wrote something obscure on the declaration sheet:

Fragrance, perhaps, or even just Souvenirs of Oman.


It may never have cleared customs,

Or maybe my husband never picked up the package,

Because when I sailed home two months later

We had gold. But no frankincense.


And so we could not chew it,

Nor scent our clothes, nor home,

Nor safeguard our hearts

From all the life that was to come.