When people still wrote letters, they started “Dear Somebody ...”
See, right there a little warmth and then the name — no question
to whom it was addressed. no hitting the wrong key. You could check
for smudges, think about others' hands who held it.
Dear Sue, I really want to see you
when I get home from the war. Oops, no mention
of three other girls
who were getting similar letters.
My darling Frank, your grandma’s faded ink
says, on that super-thin light blue paper,
I’m sorry I never told you about that other man
I used to be married to. Holy crap. You could watch
your aunt getting older, the writing
more faint and spidery, fewer words, but still she
found a stamp and went out to
clothespin her love to the mailbox.
Or the plain four-line note he sent,
breaking a lifetime’s habit so that you could keep it
in your wallet through the years. Even the absence
of words could be dramatic. Dear odd person,
the return letter did not say, I vaguely remember
meeting you on that trip, but your letter
was kind of freaky. Please get the drift
of my silence and do not write again. We reach out
because we must, however scratchy the instrument
and errant the thought, except that now we put
our lameness out there for more people to see.
Shame is antiquated. Then there is poetry,
also antiquated and potentially eternal. Holding
even more capacity for public embarrassment,
the likelihood of being misunderstood so great
that it is a traditional feature of the art,
but oddly impersonal. No chance of impractical
young women fantasizing
that the abstract poet is writing obliquely
about their form and face. No worries about psychotic stalkers,
convinced that the haiku refers to the sexy curves
of their particular calves. But words still speak
across space — centuries or cyber,
ignorance or social convention, width of a table,
length of a left-handed quill.
So let’s be clear. This is not for you, unless
you will it so.