Your letter through the slot
slid to the floor and lay quite still
all day, until returning home from work
I seized and tore it open.
Then the prize of your life,
squeezed into the pen’s dark lines,
lit the dimming kitchen, where
hands shaking, I rustled the thin paper
to begin your resurrection.
Though it’s too hot to think, I think
of the reels we danced to and my childhood dog
as often as I imagine my death.
It’s enough to have a little faith. Courage
is too much to ask, I’d settle for a good sleep.
My love, how not to crave oblivion,
even now, with only heat and sour fear
to kill me? Though come tomorrow
or come Wednesday, I may be a killer
when I’d planned to fiddle in blue-grass!
Waiting for war, we are humming
and playing cards, and the dry,
cracked-mud landscape opens
farther and farther around us,
as if some drab eternity has swallowed us.
Soon, this week, or the next, the army
will say go, and we will go, though
my friend cracked up before a shot was fired.
Fleshed in each line, you walked
the white pages, though I killed you
in my mind a thousand times:
planted bullets in your torso,
lit your hair on fire, sent gas
whistling through your pipes.
Oh miracle! Oh poem.
Oh odd, tight-lipped rejoicing.
In the hot, dry breath of death
you’ve packed your life
into an envelope and escaped
to me and to this plain, Midwestern house
where I, the dullest of apostles,
join your illicit alliance late
to offer this to you,
my desert Lazarus, to your reluctant resilience,
and to our savior, Christ, the Word.
Amanda Rogers teaches at Bryn Athyn College in Pennsylvania and directs a small nonprofit that provides homes for street kids in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Image: Old letters, Preto Perola  / Shutterstock.com