Forgive me, I’m no good at this. I can’t write back. I never read your letter.
I can’t say I got your note. I haven’t had the strength to open the envelope.
The mail stacks up by the door. Your hand’s illegible. Your postcards were
defaced. Wash your wet hair? Any document you meant to send has yet to
reach me. The untied parcel service never delivered. I regret to say I’m
unable to reply to your unexpressed desires. I didn’t get the book you sent.
By the way, my computer was stolen. Now I’m unable to process words. I
suffer from aphasia. I’ve just returned from Kenya and Korea. Didn’t you
get a card from me yet? What can I tell you? I forgot what I was going to
say. I still can’t find a pen that works and then I broke my pencil. You know
how scarce paper is these days. I admit I haven’t been recycling. I never
have time to read the Times. I’m out of shopping bags to put the old news
in. I didn’t get to the market. I meant to clip the coupons. I haven’t read
the mail yet. I can’t get out the door to work, so I called in sick. I went to
bed with writer’s cramp. If I couldn’t get back to writing, I thought I’d catch
up on my reading. Then Oprah came on with a fabulous author plugging her
best selling book.
Originally published in Santa Monica Review, fall 1997. Copyright © 1997 by Harryette Mullen. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the author.
Not that anyone would notice it at first. I have taken to marveling at the trees in our park. One thing I can tell you: they are beautiful and they know it. They are also tired, hundreds of years stuck in one spot— beautiful paralytics. When I am under them, they feel my gaze, watch me wave my foolish hand, and envy the joy of being a moving target. Loungers on the benches begin to notice. One to another, "Well, you see all kinds..." Most of them sit looking down at nothing as if there was truly nothing else to look at until there is that woman waving up to the branching boughs of these old trees. Raise your heads, pals, look high, you may see more than you ever thought possible, up where something might be waving back, to tell her she has seen the marvelous.
From Coming to That by Dorothea Tanning. Copyright © 2011 by Dorothea Tanning. Used with permission of Graywolf Press. All rights reserved.
Up until this sore minute, you could turn the key, pivot away.
But mine is the only medicine now
wherever you go or follow.
The past is so far away, but it flickers,
then cleaves the night. The bones
of the past splinter between our teeth.
This is our life, love. Why did I think
it would be anything less than too much
of everything? I know you remember that cheap motel
on the coast where we drank red wine,
the sea flashing its gold scales as sun
soaked our skin. You said, This must be
what people mean when they say
I could die now. Now
we’re so much closer
to death than we were then. Who isn’t crushed,
stubbed out beneath a clumsy heel?
Who hasn’t stood at the open window,
sleepless, for the solace of the damp air?
I had to get old to carry both buckets
yoked on my shoulders. Sweet
and bitter waters I drink from.
Let me know you, ox you.
I want your scent in my hair.
I want your jokes.
Hang your kisses on all my branches, please.
Sink your fingers into the darkness of my fur.
Copyright © 2020 by Ellen Bass. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 13, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
Bring me your pain, love. Spread it out like fine rugs, silk sashes, warm eggs, cinnamon and cloves in burlap sacks. Show me the detail, the intricate embroidery on the collar, tiny shell buttons, the hem stitched the way you were taught, pricking just a thread, almost invisible. Unclasp it like jewels, the gold still hot from your body. Empty your basket of figs. Spill your wine. That hard nugget of pain, I would suck it, cradling it on my tongue like the slick seed of pomegranate. I would lift it tenderly, as a great animal might carry a small one in the private cave of the mouth.
Reprinted from Mules of Love by Ellen Bass, with the permission of BOA Editions, Ltd. Copyright © 2002 by Ellen Bass. All rights reserved.