Beloved, men in thick green coats came crunching through the snow, the insignia on their shoulders of uncertain origin, a country I could not be sure of, a salute so terrifying I heard myself lying to avoid arrest, and was arrested along with Jocko, whose tear had snapped off, a tiny icicle he put in his mouth. We were taken to the ice prison, a palace encrusted with hoarfrost, its dome lit from within, Jocko admired the wiring, he kicked the walls to test the strength of his new boots. A television stood in a block of ice, its blue image still moving like a liquid center. You asked for my innermost thoughts. I wonder will I ever see a grape again? When I think of the vineyard where we met in October-- when you dropped a cluster custom insisted you be kissed by a stranger-- how after the harvest we plunged into a stream so icy our palms turned pink. It seemed our future was sealed. Everyone said so. It is quiet here. Not closing our ranks weakens us hugely. The snowflakes fall in a featureless bath. I am the stranger who kissed you. On sunny days each tree is a glittering chandelier. The power of mindless beauty! Jocko told a joke and has been dead since May. A bullethole in his forehead the officers call a third eye. For a month I milked a barnful of cows. It is a lot like cleansing a chandelier. Wipe and polish, wipe and polish, round and round you go. I have lost my spectacles. Is the book I was reading still open by the side of our bed? Treat it as a bookmark saving my place in our story. (here the letter breaks off)
Once upon a time there was a bird, my God.
I am the yellow finch that came to her feeder an hour before she died. I was the last living thing she saw, so my responsibility was great. Yet all I did was eat. Through eight long months of winter the black oiled sunflower seeds had gone untouched—not a single one of my kind or any other kind had approached them. It was too much work. Even if we’d had the strength—which we did not, half-starved as we were—we were not in the mood to crack anything. On the morning of the twenty-second of April she took them away and refilled the feeding tube with sunflower hearts—sheeny niblets whose hard outer husk had been stripped away by some faraway, intricate machine. She went back inside and waited. From my branch I could see her do the things she liked to do—she picked up a towel from off the floor, she filled out a card stopping the mail, she boiled water, she stared into space. She saw me coming. Her face flickered with, if not exactly joy, the ordinary wellspring of life. It’s true there was a sheet of glass between us. But I could see the seeds of her eyes and the upturned corners of her mouth. I ate a heart. I turned my head. She looked at me as if I were the last living thing on earth. And as I was, I kept on eating.