Letters to a Young Poet, 1987 (audio only)

Lisa Sewell

 

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Letter from a Haunted Room

Dear K., there’s a mosquito stain
between the pages of your book, a streak
of platelets beside my index finger.
The broken microscopic cells have escaped
the hurly-burly of the wide aorta, the stark
unholy flow through veins and tubules.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mistake
anatomy for emotion. My heart is meat
and gristle, like Artaud’s: a simple
pump, it never falters. If I weep
it’s for the rocking chair, three knocks
embedded in the nursery wall.
On one window, I found instructions:
“Here, no cares invade, all sorrows
cease” in almost perfect iambs.
Forgive me. I tried to keep them
“far outside” but they marched right up
to my room. All month they’ve been waving
tenuous arms. Have you seen them?
What could I do but let them in
and let them rest in your favorite chair. Soon
they’ll disappear or I will. In the afternoons
(do you remember?) light falls
or spills, spills or falls through the amber
stained-glass windows. It lifts my spirits
but I’m still waiting for you to appear
at the edge of my bed with a message. Think
of the ruins I could have traveled to
by now, think of the days I’ve wasted
lying on the pink divan, a stand of hawthorns
blocking my view of the rose garden,
my American Beauty, already fully blown.

King Lear

For the father who wakes
and wakes himself, eyes full of himself

and for the one, who when the sun descends
slips into the stormy

smite flat the rotundity o’ the world.

Done in with conspiracy and murder
in his sleep (his eye-tooth finally unfixed
and tucked into a cheek for safekeeping)

he dreams of a three-armed garment
unable to wonder or comprehend
how he has come to this blurred ridge and broken—

I try to fix in my mind, his shining eyes
the terrors he shut his lips against

and his early morning utterly lucid accusation:
“I never would have believed,” he said to me
“that you would be among them.”