Dear Melissa [who has never been holy]

who has never been holy won’t be won’t let it in

what has died has been familiar and would be born

where before I knew you nothing came and could be

come face of my face flesh of my flesh      what it was

came into my hands      so little comes and so pulled

back the body where it was      we who listen to holes

pull ourselves down inside them      who cannot come

call down walls pull down what we pour into us

holy holy      what cannot be ever in the hands pulling

pouring what was I knew you into the hands I was

a body to be held and holy singing of nothing comes

a body      what is holy      born wholes all of us pulling

into what was poured      then hold      hold      I knew you

what cannot be punctured cannot be born what it was

More by TC Tolbert

Dear Melissa: [a curve billed thrasher]

a curve billed thrasher
is cleaning its beak on the ground—
we are closer now than ever—sitting
in shadow—I never want to scare
anyone—not really—I have a friend
who loves people who come out
suddenly—in the dark—
                                    pleasure
is the same distance as pain from here—
that’s my skin on your sweater—both hands
stripped now—I know I am someone
to you I am entirely—practicing
Spanish on the computer—gesturing to
the neighbor instead of speaking—
                                    to sharpen
the body is never an accident—someone
I know I am not—letters are inseparable
from loss—moving what can be still
moved—one is sweeping the mouth—
what ever isn’t skin—take it off—

Dear Melissa: [I wish you]

I wish you (my mother once told me—mother of my child-
hood—even though water is water-weary—what is prayer if not quiet
who has made me—what hands you become when you touch—
who laid down on whose body—whose face and whose shoulders

worth shaking—what will I not hear when I look back
at you—who is not the mother of a daughter—who is not
the mother of a man—we are right to be afraid of our bodies—wind
is carried by what is upright and still moves what has) had

(been buried deep enough in the ground to be called roots—
when will this be the world where you stop—whatever broke 
into you was torn by the contact—a face wears a face it can see—
what is alive is unrecognizable—need it be—who is my mother,

mother—no one—who hasn’t killed herself by
growing into someone—I’m sorry you have) never been born

felo-de-se—Melissa

physicists say we change an object simply by turning 
our attention to it—really I am a grandson
only when we are eating at Panera—one of us is lying
always about her particular hunger—I love the children outside of me
counting to 30 while covering their eyes—whose body
will we sacrifice to be in the company of another—each
day across my ongoing—I haul the husk of her—fire
towers are designed for distance viewing—and I am right
here—mothering you into the next life—call me cover
when you don’t know who I could be—time’s
psychologic and legal assault—no one is listening to
ice become water—burying you to keep us alive—