Saturday, March 1, 2014

"Love Letters" (1992)


I would give my husband drawings for grocery lists,
with smiling faces on the eggs, and spider feet
dangling everywhere. I could draw letters too.
fat senseless alphabets, lexical landscapes of
pointed trees and bloated clouds. that is how I
wished words were, with changing colours and
feathers in their spines. on road signs in my
dreams, they shimmied, their Rockette heels a
variegated sunburst. unlike the stiff black
knots and stakes that glared at me from envelopes
and books. an unchanging and cruel exotica,
like smelling Cuban cigars wherever you go or
the same screaming opera. he said that I did
not need to learn with him there, reading slowly
aloud, but sometimes in silence. that drove me
insane, he would laugh or frown at something
on the page, and look as if he were a creeping
vine on a tombstone, a coffee stain on a piece
of clean manilla. I practice learning on a stack
of mail he kept in his sock drawer, and I
finally learned dear. Dear Hank, it felt like
having a perfume sample fall from a magazine
in a sweet sudden breath. it made me think of
velvet antlers, of his rumpled cardigan sweater
and my love for him, a word which slayed me,
with its clean lines and quick exhalation,
the swelling heart in its middle. I began to
scream things all day long, and I felt the first
affection for poetry through the ringing sounds
of advertisements, soapbox labels and advice to
the lovelorn columns. words were heroic, huge
killing things, and they beat in my head and
bled from my eyes and fingers. I would be ironing,
and a giant phrase or comma would barrel into
the room, its veins bulging, its arms around
my waist. Dear Hank, I miss you especially
your sexy hands, mine clenched when I got that
far and then some. then I knew for sure that
reading was magic, it conjured up these long
eyelashes and white Harlow hair, and the guilty
baldspot and shaking dewlap of my faithless
husband, adrift on the libretto of his private
life. he would still read to me in his annoying
way while I squirmed on my novels and texts,
that lay under the couch cushions like misplaced
scissors. I drew him an elaborate list one day,
of pink champagne bottles and support girdles,
and wrote my first words. I left them with his
letters, on the back of our marriage certificate,
I think they were my finest, I said, Dear
Hank, the end. and right away began working on
a longer book.

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