Letter To Al
It was all sound. The loons. My lunatic heart. The warblers’
It was the loon night leading me to damage, a reluctant
that to do for you is to do to you.
Wild, erratic, the loon
sings out its night devotions, Monk of the bird kingdom,
trilling the high note past its measure till the heart’s
Is it fog you wander when you stare out of the house of
is a you small and distant gathering itself
for your return - a penny
for your thoughts, but you do not speak them. Only when you
draw your bow
across the cello strings do I hear the one who made my
tremble. It was pure sound answering pure sound rising and
on a flood of memory and it had the power to unlock my
Were there a hiding place in poems I would slip you into it;
you could cling
to my back or a fiddler’s trousers, as Chagall wrote of his
father, who worked
loading barrels of herring and died crushed by a car.
Barrels of grief.
Do not forsake me. Who can know what is written on his back.
I return to the nights in Russia when we stripped off
sweaters and shirts,
long johns and underthings, and dived for the narrow bed. A
had crystalized the city, trees of crystal, palaces of
where families paraded on winter evenings in high fur hats
and long fur coats and boots made of caribou on sidewalks
layered with snow. Beneath thin covers we shivered as we
the fire of sex. This was the kingdom you carried me off to,
where everyone recited Pushkin and bested each other’s tales
of the gulag, the breath of the great bear of hunger on
I lay on the floor teaching my throat the sounds of a new
I called out for chalk and they gave me honey; you struggled
in a language you learned in high school, the Cold War
your interest, you with the gift of tongues. Do you have
our colleagues repeated, concerned for the strangers
in the closed zone, knowing nothing, but eager and alert.
To live a routine of catastrophe. Each day radically
Will tomorrow be Sunday or Tuesday? Will the heart hold for
one more hour?
Each day undermined. Darkly mirrored in the monitor.
Will I drop to the floor in the cereal aisle? Will you
forget your pin?
The dish lies broken. This wasn’t what we anticipated.
The thing without a name goes with us. Labouring and
Death’s imbecile cousin. Volatile. Childlike and
Delights in your confusion. Will not be ignored. Sprawls in
with its seductions. Swipes your keys and identification.|
What’s the game plan? Take each day as it metastasizes,
Lord, your humble servant, Shekhinah of the midnight hour.
In whose hands we place ourselves in medicated dreaming,
the voices calling each other’s names: Wake!
I fumbling to you. You fumbling to me. What can I
with me. Till the end of shadows. Till the end
It’s the if under every utterance. It’s the
utterance over every if.
It’s the memory arriving of my mother in a slatted lawn
eyes closed (I have closed them), smelling the salted sea
a black and white memory I am painting red. Tonight she will
her diaphragm in the drawer. Don’t tell my father. I want to
To be out in it, making memories of my mother, head thrown
letting the breeze touch her. She and I painting the lawn
To be about it. Desire, the little engine that keeps on
in every box car a generation re-membering its lost stories
over the clatter of the rails. To make, to shape it. To see
flown from the mouth as a catbird’s feather loosed in wind,
tipping the scales of a future. As in: my father has
throttled his words
once too often and lost the power to speak. He has brought
the house down around him and sits staring from the rubble.
I write this feather to touch him not to impeach.
It is enough some hours simply to be together, within our
among our familiar objects—refrigerator, toaster, pencil,
jacket, glove—or walking hand in hand. We rest when we’re
We eat when we’re hungry. The locusts, the frogs, the death
of the firstborn—
we have escaped them. Against us, not a dog shall move his
Some hours it seems perfected, the cycle of passion and
striving and settling, everything come down to love. The
of devotion, the osmotic comfort of skin on skin. We quiet,
old lovers who have no need to speak. Outside, the plagues
the pestilence, the grievous hail, the stinking fish,
Pharaoh doubles down on his intransigence. But our ambitions
have grown modest. I stop for a flower’s deliquescence,
the sequence: crocus, daffodil, tulip, peony, rose.
You fill your pillbox, watch Space X rockets land on water.
A hand held, a kiss soft on the lips—there is no future to