Dear Gail: Each day I pray the muses
will bring me tasty nouns and surprising verbs,
but pain and death keep dancing through
my dreams wearing garments of grief.
My spirit is turning to ashes, yet there is no fire.
A Buddhist monk told me I could get rid
of this bereavement by gathering tea leaves
from those who’ve lost no one to death.
He promised that as I sipped the tea, sorrow
would slip away like a snowflake falling
on a child’s tongue. It was a good lesson.
Each home I visited told me how death
had come calling into their lives, how the living
carry their dead like roses against a black sky,
how the wages of tears must fill our cups
before any tea can boil or brew. I know
you can loan me none of this tea and that’s
not why I’ve written today. I write to tell you
that the poems about your own dead
have become, strangely, a source of light.
FREDRICK ZYDEK lives in Omaha, Nebraska, and is the author of The Abbey Poems (1994) and Ending the Fast (1984), as well as other books. He recently exchanged his cast-iron Remington typewriter for life online.