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Letter to Ko


ISSUE:  Autumn 1997
In the market of Totora
a scribe had set up
his ancient Underwood
on a plank table.

He offered to write a note
that would reach you
there, in Karia,
in the high granite valley
where you lay in fever.

The price was a night’s sleep
or the light of the eye.

I bargained:
if it requires a miracle
then it is not love.

Then I dictated the letter
stating my terms:

a small house,
a well and fig trees,
beehives and clean linen
for your hand in marriage.

He held the paper
straight into the candle flame
and let it twist
and dissolve inwards,
like a soul looking for itself.

He dropped it in distaste
just before the live ash
scalded his fingertips
and I paid him.

It was that hour of evening
when the passes become visible—

snowcaps flickering in desert heat,
absentminded as the daylight moon,
and no road,
no other life,
no sign.

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