Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Letters (Part Twelve)

(Letters is my series exploring a war-
time relationship across the miles.
Find the beginning here.)

Note: This letter was delivered
the day after Patrick sent
the previous one.


I am overcome. Relieved. Hannah wrote, and told me of your recovery. Thank her for me. She's hurting right now.

I wish I could tell you exactly how I'm feeling. I've been trying so hard for the last couple days. But like the snake devouring its tail, my words keep eating themselves.

Hannah mentioned the poem. Let me wrap you in its words. This is what I want to say.

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

You know it's true, Patrick. Whatever else I'm feeling, whatever my fears and worries, I have always been constant. Which is no great feat on my part. I am simply in love. And you are my ever-fixed mark. The sun to my moon. The root of my bud. The far and near.

Get well, darling. That's all. Everything else can be untangled. Whatever it takes. I see you wrinkling your brow at me as you read this. No, I'm not that naive. Not anymore. Love is not blind . . . I recognize that. But it can be our eyes. I will choose how I see through its bright, eternal prism. Because I know that my heart is carried within yours. To doubt that is to already dissect it away.

I have doubted too much in my life. Surrendered to the solitary swells, instead of chasing the long wave. I don't want to do that anymore.

My arms will be open for as long as it takes you to swim in them again.



p.s. There is a meteor shower tonight! They look like stars to me.


Part Thirteen is here

Monday, February 23, 2009


I remember the day. Kind of. It was a Sunday, in the middle of summer. I was ten years old. Give or take.

But it was definitely a Sunday. Definitely.

It was a big yawn of an afternoon. You remember how summers were as a kid…like one, streaming reel of scratchy boredom, spliced with short bursts of flaming freedom. I was lying in bed, still in my nightgown, reading a book I wasn’t real thrilled with. Stuffed animals crowded my elbows. I stared at my reflection in the closet mirror, feeling vaguely dissatisfied.

And then I had an idea.

I would remember this moment. As in, forever. I would remember my disheveled hair on the pillow. The restless bobbing of my foot. Sarah Beth, my favorite doll (yeah, I was getting too old for dolls), looking on with her pert, eternal smile. And in remembering these small details, the moment would be staked down. Given a weight, and definition, that it didn’t really deserve. A photograph, filed.

Me . . . bed . . . summer Sunday.

At the time, of course, I wasn’t exactly thinking these things. I probably just did it on a lark (I don’t actually remember my motivations). Maybe the idea of carving something meaningful out of nothingness appealed to my nascent writing self. Who knows? I don't, anymore.

But I worked at recalling this memory. And I succeeded . . . sort of.

As a result, I have a glimpse into a typical day of my youth. Which is kind of cool. It’s usually the big moments we remember (or think we do—our slippery brains fool us often enough). But let’s face it—our lives our mostly comprised of the everyday, banal moments like the one I chose to honor. If our present selves are quilts of pieced memories, these kinds of moments would be the dark, vast backgrounds against which the precious, colorful memories can pop and dazzle.

And yet, it’s not a very satisfying memory. Its surface is fuzzy. The details I recall don’t say a lot about the person I was. And isn’t that what we want memory to accomplish? To resurrect ourselves in some way, and feel the thread of time connecting past to present quiver. To find out why we are who we are today, and how our past experiences feed our present desires. To reach some understanding, touch some elusive meaning.

And yes, to share those revelations with others.

Stuffed animals and messy hair don’t offer me much today. But there is a connection I feel to that summer Sunday, and the girl who looked in that mirror.

The desire to remember. To hold tight.

And its mirror.

The fear of loss. Of oblivion.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Washed and rinsed,
steamy with citrus,
she unknotted hair,
limed winter bones,
and flexed the wrinkles
from a blank
parchment skin

while drawing
her cheek like a
along the leaf
of his back,
she would think
of crocuses
poking their noses
through a storm of
spring earth


(I could not find the name of the artist,
but I discovered the painting here)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Letters (Part Eleven)

(Letters is my series exploring a war-
time relationship across the miles.
Find the beginning here.)

Note: There has been no more
communication from Hannah,
and only silence from Elise. But
not for so long that it couldn't be
the slowness of the mail system.

Dear Elise,

My hand feels like it’s hanging by a thread, but I wanted to write you. I wanted to tell you that I love you. I wanted to tell you that I never left you. Not even when I felt death rattling in my lungs, and whispering in my ear. Not even then.

I wanted to tell you that you have nothing to fear.

You’re scared right now, and you don’t know why. I’m better, and yet you still can’t sleep. You’re thinking of Hannah and me, and the fact that you’re not here. You want to be big enough that it doesn't destroy you. You’re tired of the wondering, of drilling into every word, the spaces between. And when you fail in these endeavors, you feel like you don’t deserve me at all. You’re even considering whether you should just give me to her. Finish it all, choke on the ashes. The End.

Maybe there’s a bitter peace in that, Elise. Maybe. It’s easy to want to be noble when you hate yourself. Martyrdom has a certain mystique.

I’m not something for you to give. Do you hear me? We are not something apart. If you were to push me towards Hannah, I might grasp on. Yes. I don’t deny it. But only to numb the pain. Only because I’m still scared enough of dying that I’m willing to cling to a hollow sort of living.

What about my fear, Elise? Doesn’t it mean anything to you? Your silence wounds me, right at the moment when I need to heal. Rise above your hurt and self-loathing, and give me your shoulder. I’m going to need it.

I’m coming home in three weeks.



p.s. The poem I mentioned to Hannah was "I carry your heart with me." I’d forgive her for forgetting that. I'd never forgive you.


Part Twelve is here

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Mix

Ella put them in a sentimental mood.

They got lost with Chet.

Bob invited her to lay across the big brass bed.

By then, they didn't really need Norah to turn them on.

They were already the thing songs are shadows of.

(If music be the food of love, play on...and Happy Valentine's Day!!)


Track listing:

1. In A Sentimental Mood, Ella Fitzgerald
2. Let's Get Lost, Chet Baker
3. Lay Lady Lay, Bob Dylan
4. Turn Me On, Norah Jones

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Letters (Part Ten)

(Letters is my series exploring a war-
time relationship across the miles.
Find the beginning here.)

Note: There have been letters from Hannah
updating Patrick's condition that have been
for story purposes; however, this is her
first letter
after receiving Elise's

Dear Mrs. Freeman,

Your husband's health is improved. Although too weak to write, he is managing some food, and his temperature is nearly normal. His color has revived and his heartbeat is stronger. The cough persists, but there is much less sputum produced. I believe I informed you, in a recent letter, that he was experiencing chest discomfort. This pleuritic pain is now quite reduced, and he rests comfortably at night.

The physician attending him sees no reason why he won’t be able to be discharged within the month, if the present rate of progress continues. Mr. Freeman was relieved to hear this news, as I’m sure you can imagine.

I have requested that another nurse take over my duties in caring for him. Although Mr. Freeman has appealed for my services, I believe this new arrangement to be best for all involved.

I hope this letter finds you well, and succeeds in quieting your fears.

Yours truly,

Hannah Abbott

p.s. Before I stopped attending to Mr. Freeman, he asked that I direct you to a poem. I believe it was a favorite of yours by E.E. Cummings, but I regret to say I have forgotten the name of the poem in question. You have my sincere apologies. Perhaps he can inform you soon enough by his own hand.


Part Eleven is here.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Sisyphus, In Love

They let their boots talk.

All that crunching snow, with crusts of ice above and below. Too sheeted to be molded into balls, or snow boulders. It gnawed on the calves and hamstrings after awhile. But it was a good burn. Matching the heat inside her lungs. Each lungful living large outside the lips, before dissolving away. The same for him. Maybe their breaths would meet in the silk of blue light, she thought, and dance beneath the pines.

His strides were longer than hers, and she struggled to keep up.

She watched the way he attacked the hill, and smiled against her scarf. The red of his ears poked from beneath his black hat. She had whispered things into those ears last night. They had been red then, too. But she liked seeing him away from her now. On his own. Just a little ahead. Almost unconsciously so. His instinct for solitude bound her closer to him.

She knew he would eventually turn. If only to tease her about being slow. Her pace dragged slightly. Pulling his string, if just a tug.

“You coming, or what?” he said.

He grinned back at her, and she stuck out her tongue. Feeling twelve again.

So alive.

“You’re too fast!” she said.


He set the sled on the summit of the hill, and waited for her to sit. Once she did, he squeezed in behind.

She leaned into his chest. Resting elbows on thighs. Sinking into his body heat.

She felt his arms wrap around, and heard the wind begin to whistle as they tipped toward gravity’s pull. His chin bobbled against her shoulder. Her eyes teared from the frigid blast. A blizzard of laughter blew between them as they scraped up more momentum. Halfway down, she unleashed a scream that frightened the crows. A murder exploded from the tree limbs, dropping their ice daggers, but the sled outran them.

As they weaved between the evergreens, she remembered her Ethan Frome. And briefly closed her eyes.

“What do you think?” he asked, when they finally touched bottom.

Voice sucked dry, she could only squeeze his knee. He nodded and helped her to her feet.

They let their boots talk. As they headed, once more, for the clouds.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


And when he threw
his arms about her neck,
he squeezed so tight
a white ghost slipped
from her Valentine lips

And when she clenched
her legs about his waist,
she blazed so hot
the wood in his bones
was torched to a pulp

Now when the snow
sinks over its felled tree,
try to divine whether
the tears it sheds
are given in sorrow or
taken with relief

Monday, February 2, 2009

Letters (Part Nine)

(Letters is my series exploring a war-
time relationship across the miles.
Find the beginning here.)

Dear Hannah,

I hope you can read this. My hands won’t stop shaking.

Thank you for being my lifeline to him. Thank you. I received your letter some hours ago. It is cruel to recognize that your words are only an echo of last week’s conditions, but they are something to hold onto during this tireless winter night. Patrick meant for me to know the truth. If not like this.

I want to be there. I want to hold his hand. I want these tears to slide down his fingers, and ice the fever under his skin. I want, I want. And it’s not right. No, it’s not.

But I need for him to get better. So find a way, Hannah. Please. Find some way.

I couldn’t bear it if

You should not confuse my gratitude with blindness. It is apparent to me, from your letter and Patrick’s before, that you love him. At the very least, you are disturbed by the possibility. I can see how it would happen. But I cannot despair over that. Not now. I refuse. Instead, I ask you, as humbly as I know how, to use your love to make him well.

Will you read this scrap of poem to my husband? I wrote it months ago, but never shared it with him. I wonder why, now. I understand his grasp is fleeting, but I want to touch him somehow. I need for your hands to heal his body, but if my words can kiss someplace deeper than foreheads, fingers, cracked lips, I will settle for that. I have to. He will not be lost to me.

Read it softly, Hannah. Slowly. Against his ear.

I wear your heart,
on a chain,
tucked inside
my blouse,
where it pumps
like a pedal, on
the world’s oldest
piano, stretching our
song, a single chord
of love/pain/desire,
long after fingers
have surrendered
their right
to press
such fallen

Thank you, Hannah.

It is daytime for you two. But darkest night here. That is the smallest comfort to me.

Take care of him. And yourself. I hope to find another letter from you tomorrow. Telling me everything.

And now, to wait.

Yours truly,



Part Ten is here