Posts Tagged ‘epistle’

Dear Pablo,

Because you dared to love Matilde
without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I, too, became the unblooming reed
that carries inside it the radiance of summer days,
the luminosity of moon, the glittering secrets of stars.
I, too, believed I could be worthy of devotion
despite my darkness, because my darkness,
because my shadows, because my shame.
I embraced love as wood instead of crystal—
something growing, something vital,
something solid and difficult to break.
Because you spilled love into ink,
I learned your love by heart.
Your words caressed me and drenched me
like late summer rain, they carried me
through gloomy rooms and moonless years.  
Because you dared to deeply love one woman,
you touched the soul of this other woman,
and I, too, know, because of you,
the perfume of dark carnation, the ripe apple
of happiness, the bliss of being spread out
on a blanket of ancient night,
a kiss that transcends borders and centuries,
the gift of a love so obscure it resists translation,
the gift of a love so personal
it invites the rest of the world.

*with references to Love Sonnets XII and XVII

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*Dear readers: Sooooo. After really investing myself in the letter (linked below) and writing the poem below, I found out the letter is a fake. And I thought about just taking down the poem. And then I thought, well, even though Albert didn’t write the letter, I still believe in what it says. So I changed the title and made note here that the letter is fake. I guess my poem just turned into fan fiction??



If we want our species to survive, if we are to find meaning in life, if we want to save the world and every sentient being that inhabits it, love is the one and only answer.

            —a fake letter from Albert Einstein, in a letter to his daughter, Lieserl



Thank you for your letter.

I know you wrote it

for a daughter,

but I read it as if

you wrote it for me.


You spoke of making a love bomb,

a device powerful enough

to entirely destroy the hate,

selfishness and greed

that devastate the planet.


I want to believe it’s possible.

Now. Somehow, because it is

your assertion, it feels

more possible than something

the poets propose.


But count me in. Let me help

verify your equation in which

the energy to heal the world

is obtained through love

multiplied by the speed of light squared.


Let the experiment begin

in my heart. Let me always

let love write the proof.

Let me find the infinite energy

inside me waiting to be released.


Let me be driven by love.

Let me remember everything

is in relation to everything else:

Planets in their orbits. A virus. Black holes.

How I meet the world. The bending of light.


*to read the full letter, click here

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Out the window the world is reassembling itself. The shades of green begin to emerge in the field—so many greens. Some part of me wants to name them all—emerald, sage, Kelly, lime, avocado, moss, spring. I want to name them not to organize them, but to celebrate each one.


Last week I did a training on how to assess parental affection. It’s a funny idea, the quantification of affection. It reminds me of the way children will sometimes fling their arms back behind their shoulders in an awkward joy and say, “I love you thiiiiiiiis much.”


One of the markers for affection is parental use of endearments—honey, sweetie, pumpkin, darling. As the evaluator, I am asked to mark if this is absent, present or emerging.


I don’t think you ever called me honey or sweetie, Dad, in fact, no generic terms of endearment. You always had your own special names for me that emerged out of play—Penelope, Reesmorie, Rosamarinipuscavazini, Roxanne the Foxanne, Rox. I always knew I was special to you, branded by your love of silliness, your love of me. And sometimes, when I was down, I would call you, and just hearing you say your special name for me made life seem just a little bit better.


The greens outside the window are brighter now. They seem to suggest an infinite potential inside a finite range. I know it is just the bending of light, but it thrills me.


This morning, I would like to give you this sense of infinite possibility, offer it to you while you are far away in a hospital bed and it feels as if the options are closing. Inside that finite window of options, there is an infinite potential for healing. We couldn’t possibly name all the available outcomes, though I suppose we could rate them as absent, emerging and present.


What is present is the enormous love I have for you. I’m not interested in measuring it, really, just in giving it to you, letting you know how I celebrate you. As if with love alone I could take away the pain you are in.


Who am I kidding? I guess I do wish I could express the extent of love so that you could feel the infinite ways it unfolds in the finite space of my heart. And though the only name I have for you, Dad, is generic, I wish that by saying your name on the other end of the phone, things might feel just a little bit better.


Dad, I love you, thiiiiiiiis much,


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Yesterday I found a bird on the ground outside the window. Remember how I had told you about the two pairs of Bullock’s Orioles at our feeder? It was one of the females. I was too squeamish to pick her up with my bare hands. Someone at some time told me about the bacteria on birds, and like so many other stories, I let it define my actions even though I don’t know that it’s true.


I did pick it up, however, fashioned a little stretcher out of cottonwood sticks and carried the bird to the deep grass.


Though it was at the feeder the day before, already it was gone enough to have lost its eyes, now two little sunken spaces where the head pulled in on itself. But the small body was not yet rigid, and it hung, limp, over the sticks.


I sang a death song, as I always do, sometimes out loud, sometimes in my head. It was taught to me by Art. “Nothing lives long, nothing lives long, nothing lives long, not even the mountain.”


I remember the day Art changed the lyric. For many years, he had sung the final phrase, “nothing lives long but the earth and the mountain.” Perhaps like all things

that are new, it trembled something me. The old words were so comfortable and familiar in my ears, my mouth. I suspect the real reason they shook me was the truth of them. Nothing lives long. Not even the mountain.


How small we are. Sometimes, like yesterday, I let my sadnesses and worries become so big, much bigger than my body. I can’t contain them and they spill. It was beautiful to watch how, on that flood of my sorrow, you found a boat and sat in it and showed me it was possible.


Why did I think the deep grass was a better place for the body of the bird? I didn’t question the voice that told me to take her there. Perhaps we are all heading into the unkempt field, a place where we are open and hidden at the same time.


I watched the other three birds all day as they flew from feeder to cottonwood. They were a braid of song, seldom staying in one place for long.


Nothing lives long. It’s no revelation, but sometimes an old truth finds wings in us. And so it was when you told me yesterday, just before you drove away, that I needed to stop hoping things would change—that I needed to decide if I could be happy with things just as they are. Only minutes later I found the bird. Though the two events didn’t seem connected at the moment, now they are like two drops that become one water.


And so this morning, I join you in the boat. Although it is just a metaphor, I notice that it changes things not to be swimming in the waters of wishing things were different. I notice how there are no oars in the boat, and how part of me longs for control and part of me has already found the freedom to stare at the sky.


And there they are, the three orioles, their yellow feathers flashing as they rearrange the air. And there she isn’t, the oriole now laying in the field.


Later today I will fill the feeder. There are some things we can do.



Your friend,






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I’m sorry I didn’t let you
watch a movie when we got home tonight.
And I’m sorry I didn’t let you
have a piece of gum before bed.
And I’m sorry it was too late tonight
for a story. I’m sorry.
Not sorry in a guilty way,
but sorry in that I know
how hard it is to want something
and not get it. I know what it’s like
to convince yourself that your happiness
depends on that thing, that whatever thing
that you don’t have.
All those tears. I have cried them, too.
It did not matter that I was loved,
that the bed was warm, that
my belly was full, that the sky
was a lovely shade of peach.
I did not have what I thought
I must have. It does not change
when you’re older. Oh, the whatevers
change, but the longing
is part of being alive.
Tonight I wanted you
to stop crying. I wanted it enough
it nearly made me cry.
But even more than that
I wanted something else
I can’t explain to you.
That greater wanting,
some kind of peace—
could you feel it, too, as it fell on us
like the most gentle rain,
how it fell on your anger,
my helplessness, your wanting,
my wanting—the kind of peace
that touches everything just as it is
and doesn’t change a thing
and changes everything.

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All day the snow has been melting.
This morning, my son said, “It’s like
a big battle between two forces,
the cold and the warm. Which one
do you think will win, Mom?”
You and I both know no one wins.

I’ve been thinking so much
about your ear—the unexpected
rupturing. This is when it is hard
to be so far away. I would like
to be near you to say soothing things
in your other ear. Not promises, of course.
But poems.

The other day I was driving home
through the eastern part of the state.
There is nearly nothing there but road
for miles and miles and miles. Nothing,
and a wire fence to hold back
all that nothing. It was a wonderful
place to think of nothing, but
my mind kept returning instead
to the day when we walked
along the Platte and said
hello to everyone we passed.
So few of them said
hello back.

Why do we remember
what we do? How could we
have known that day would be the one
that would become a jewel in our minds.
Why that day ,wading at the confluence
and posing like statues against a wall,
when there have been so many
other days brilliant days together?

Today, it was brilliant, surely,
but I’d be surprised if I remembered it
years from now. Luster in the trees
and the scent of pumpkin pie in the air.
I swear all of main street smelled of spice.
What I would like to remember, though,
is that this is the day that your hearing
began to come back, only that’s not
what you said in your message.

Remember how we laughed
when the people we greeted
pretended that they could not hear us?
But I hear you, Julie, I hear you
most days, even from far away.
It’s not a phrase or word that I hear,
just the ring of your being. Rilke says that what
batters you becomes your strength.
I might whisper that line in your one
good ear. Or I might just whisper
your name the way the sun says
“World, I am here to warm you,”
the way the cold says, “Snow,
I am here to keep you whole.”


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