Letter to J.
I think of you more often now that you’re dead.
Red birds beat their wings against the cage.
Your voice menaces my dreams — chases sleep
every night. Sometimes even my cat sees you.
You’re drinking whiskey straight. You’re dancing.
You told me a story: moving back to California
one summer, you ran out of room in your suitcases.
You had to wear all of your clothes —
they ballooned your body out,
like strangely soft exoskeletons. On the plane,
you stripped the sweaters off one by one,
until you bore only a white tank top, a tiny
eggshell. You were cold.
I live now on a canopy road
where branches of live oaks tangle together
over the street, eerie Spanish moss
dripping down like hair torn
out in a nightmare, casting spells
in whispers on the breeze. I drink
two nights a week with people who never
knew your name. I drink till I am sick
and you appear, smiling before me,
bobbing your head. I limit myself. If I drank
every day, I would join you.
The note you left —
you wanted to get to the other side,
but couldn’t see a way. Now the wall seems high —
I am ashamed to say I tried to scale it twice
since hearing you’d traveled over.
Today I wear dangly earrings
with bits of polished green shell skirting my neck.
I think of the night we shaved our heads —
feet of mousy locks liberated,
our pale napes, the remaining duck fluff
sticking up irregularly. You were a mirror
and we stood face to face, clasping hands.
Copyright 2007, Valerie Wetlaufer
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