Friday, August 28, 2009

letter to M --

August 27, 2009

Dear M--,

It has been raining these last two days, everywhere it is wet and there seems no place to go that is dry. Even what is dry in its bones is wet. I wanted to write you a letter for the longest time. Then I thought I’d save something special for you but that wasn’t working because nothing special seemed around. I went outside and picked up Biscuit and brought him in and said, “Such a handsome cat.” That was it. One day was like that and the next day, too. And then it was night so there. You can see I have my little boat in the pond but it is tied to the dock and anyone who rows it will stay in that place, close to shore, rocking uselessly against the rope. I told Nora I was going to write you a letter and she said she was jealous and I said you should write M--. Really, Nora asked. I said, yes, just don’t mention poetry. Nora said, that is good to know. After I felt badly because I thought, you don’t know that. You don’t know that M-- wouldn’t like to hear from Nora and moreover you don’t know she wouldn’t like to hear Nora talk about poetry, because after all Nora is a prose person and she is deeply intelligent and interesting and so might have fine things to say about poetry, plus she is Nora so M-- would like that right off the bat. I will write her and tell her she should write you and that anything I said about what should or should not be said should be discarded. I have a red history of saying things I shouldn’t have said. Oh well. Right this moment in the kitchen I am eating Swedish almond cookies that C-- made. They are very simple as the ingredients are simple: butter, one egg white, sugar, flour and almond extract. They are small round domes dusted with confectionery sugar. I made tea. It is quiet here. C-- is in the living room. J-- is up stairs. The cats are out for now. (They’ll be in soon.) The washing machine is churning quietly away. It would be nice if you were here. Drinking tea. Eating cookies. Well, it would be.

Next moment seemed
Remarkably like
The previous.

I was deeply touched you gave me erasures at the graduation, deeply. I think I love them, in my way, and after my own fashion, as much as any set of words I have ever seen. They are quiet and beautiful, and sad. Which is fitting. But wonderful for being all of those things. Notice I said, things. That is what I meant. For I feel qualities of life at times to be things, made, material. Anyway what question did I ask?

How deeply moved I was by the erased poem that in its entirety goes like this:

Our hearts were
Death-stones of the

Those words found under what text I do not know, but those words suggest to me the voice of Paul Celan. I think about those death-stones when I read those words and I think I see them they are beautiful and sad and quiet. They might be stones on a beach or, more likely, in a creek.

I have saved everything you gave me. The cardboard, the envelope, the typewriter ribbon. All of it. I have saved it. It all seems special to me. All of it is the gift.

Some days I wake up and I want to say “Fuck poetry!” or “Poetry is bullshit! “ and think maybe we should just hand-write notes to one another and that would be all the ‘literature’ we need. ‘I saw a bird today.’ ‘Look behind you. Sunset.’ ‘Your shoelace is untied. Tie it, please. I don’t want you to trip.’ ‘Come to my house. We have almond cookies. They’re delicious.’ And so on. Maybe this would’t satisfy anyone but there are days when it would satisfy me. Maybe the notes could be in French. “Je suispartout …’

Late at night I love to hear the sound of trains. In my boyhood I heard them all through the summer. My mother had a thing for open windows. There was a hand crank that opened the window in my room. I slept with my feet outside the covers. The breeze felt nice.

Here is a story I heard that instantly I thought you would love. Someone told me they saw all these dogs swimming in a pond together. One of the dogs was wearing a small life jacket. She didn’t understand. When the dogs came out of the water, she understood: the dog with the life jacket had only three legs.


Three legs. The three legged dog is a marvel. She sprints in waltz time.

Poetry. Sometimes maybe it should be tossed in the river. Other times I think it would be best if we saved it and held it close and kept it in a quiet place.

I have hardly written anything though I find myself not at all concerned because while some people have told me about how they are rushing around trying to get their poems and manuscripts published I believe what will happen will happen in spite of our best intentions seldom because of. This might be delusion on my part, who knows. When it is fall there will come additional energies.

M-- I hope everything is going well for you. We – by that I mean C-- and I – might visit Vermont in the fall. We must wait, finances are terribly difficult these days. My job pays poorly and I have debts from dental work and automotive repairs that seem to cling forever to our poor factory of a household. Don’t worry though, somehow we’ll weather the storm.

Your friend,

* From an erasure sent to the author by Mary Ruefle.

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