Letters to Lovers
October 29, 19—
I never understood how people in love could fall out, till I met you. I tried—four years in your attic room. Was it not worth it? You were so bitter and I was so hurt— I always wanted you to love me. Did you? I was a brush off; and I loved you endlessly, without hope. You called me stupid, blind, dumb. They watched us from the side, always the same question—“Why?”.
You, so long, were my best and only. You had a choice, and I waited, waited while anticipation fell like so many leaves.
October 30, 19—
“Punch me and I’ll beat you up.”—is that your motto? You break them to call it even. I take your sheet, you rip three of mine. I grab your shoelaces and you refuse words to me for a day. What does it give you? I remember wresting like children at night, writing letters by the red craft candle when your mother said “lights out.” I remember when Mark sent you home to spite me for standing up to him, in front of you. It had been the first wonderful day in a long string of aching months; and he sent you home.
June 14, 19—
I am still in love with you. I think I will always be. Tonight it is late and my heart is breaking. I am burning the incense I once used nightly in your house—that vast and empty, silent basement room. Is it still the green I left it? The smoke is drawing the ants from the walls of my house, the third since leaving you. At your home, I was beginning with Kate. Now I think I am ending again. I know I won’t find another soul-toucher like you for a long time. I miss you with the most inaudible ache of the human soul. It is like the wind that made the tides and rocked the sea, fell suddenly dead. Vanished, into the motionless ocean. Miles and miles of water are dead because of your waning love.
June 15, 19—
I never asked why you would not speak when I called; you only laughed at the television like automated joy. Maybe it was the coward in me, because I knew my words could change nothing in you.
A winter and spring have passed without you. All my relationships fail and I feel a vacant loss, as though I will never know someone to the depth that I know you.
I am leaving for Germany in nine days, a country I always considered yours. I remember thinking what great traveling companions we would make, you with your well-praised German and me with my hard-working French. Now: now: I am leaving without you.
June 16, 19—
Kate, I am reading what I wrote last September about you and Denny’s, no refills and runny eggs. It makes me so sad to think that just last September, just months ago you were happy to see me at any hour. Now we sit quietly in your white Geo, make small, starch-stiff conversation about bad music.
My patience is of a dog who knows his master’s way; even if the master changes, the dog still knows the smell of whisky and when to go. Maybe it is that smell that draws me in at first; unkempt bitterness or sorrow or rage; insanity.
July 4, 20—
Lavender. The sky is lavender, tonight. I can hear a family eating dinner in the window two floors above. I feel myself falling back into the things I wrote as a child… “The dog fell in the water today,”… “Natalie got mud on her pants.” Silensio… so far away. Today we visited the most beautiful city I’ve ever walked through in my life. Sienna—where else could you finally stop taking pictures because every corner is going to be as miracle bound as the last? Stone streets, fresh wash, lavender is fading to gray. Two cats just ran past me, and I am thinking of Natalie who hates cats and won’t speak kindly to anyone. Kerstin says the girl won’t talk to her anymore, and neither will she to her father or brother. Her mother says she is in love. And I know, she is.
With a country and a boy…
July 8, 20—
The whole world is gasping for breath while you sleep. Outside is so green and the dog so black… your shoulders, so red! Every day feels like being in love, and every night I drink too much sweet, red wine. I want to be awake, drink coffee like American cars gulp gas.
But now your sleep rolls off and this great carousel halts the centrifugal time. I hear you tear something open—a yogurt, and it seems like all the birds have stopped singing. How am I out of love with you? You ask so much of me, give nothing. Slam all the doors and walk heavy on red tile floors. You go upstairs, hardly speak to me at all. I sleep next to you and we are speechless all night.
Sleep again and stay.
January 30, 20—
Robbie. I have never once mentioned your name here. Perhaps after five thousand poems and two songs-of-six, I am finally wordless and not so heartbroken anymore. Never in my life did I love, deep as monastery walls till you. I thought never again. Two years were your years in my heart. Maybe I loved you with a love that only a child could muster—for I was sixteen, while you were twenty and heartbroken.
I wanted a friend, and you would never speak to me. But I was senseless with a thousand emotions. I was a girl delirious with want, sorrow, a needless compassion for every tired eye and wrinkled shirt. I though Naomi was crazy for leaving you—but she too was a child, when she married you.
And now you are married again, twenty-two, to a girl with the same name and birthday as me. Annie. Annie. Sweet Robbie and Annie, married six days short of a month at these words.
January 28, 20—
The summers are deep vacancies. Listening to April, I wonder why I am not her—a cavernous woman who loves and breaks with the consistency of a tenement roof. Eleven months “engaged or something,” he becomes stagnant, complacent. I find better things to do. I’m ready to say what I want and expect it. Will he resist? Regret? Begrudge? People like April love too much, they give before the lover even knows they need. How can man or woman appreciate what they never consciously wanted? I tell her, the spirit of helplessness is the anatomy of depression. Love renders her ineffectual and men roll her like silk between forefinger and thumb. I want to cry for her—how much better off am I? Married, May, August, does it matter? I will never be able to travel; just the thought makes me want to fly faster than those dangling options, that indifferent verb.
Given the option, I would choose only him—but that is no option. He has come from behind and the whole thing has me startled to my toes.