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Letter to Santa Fe

ISSUE:  Summer 1995

     Staying over the three teaching days, to feel
our distance less: the aromatic dryness
when the heat recedes, the evening sprinklers going
on the desert-like, miniature-Midwestern lawns… .
You like absences: will the high, wide air make you happy,
even after last week? Will N. be of help?
Will R. and E. take you to Bandelier,
where I climbed with my daughter to that smoke-hole, hardly
more than that, though a family lived or prayed there
(A. off somewhere, controlling her panic)—and felt the rock
stream back and back in itself, not knowing it meant how much in me I didn’t feel could come forward, not in this life.
     About Cather: she has two themes, the empty land,
and love, always irregular, always balked.
Like a treble and bass line at the farthest distance
that can still be heard as dialogue. The emptiness
always opens; then some tiny space is reclaimed.
The doctor lights his quartz stove, to read and not go home.
A boy and girl trade toys on the planks of the general store.
(They will still be doing that on p. 250,
when her husband blasts them back to—emptiness.)
     It’s not fair to anyone, asking you to redeem
my steps there, two years back. It’s too complex
why she was unhappy, and I was no help.
The red-earth dryness only told her how easily
one could die of thirst, that for me released an inner
fragrance in things. I think you and I could walk there,
our scrawny bodies somehow sure of carrying
enough in them to get us to the thin
stone lions almost shapeless with generations
of secret touching—overland pilgrims, by night.
And back? Or would we spoil it with our need
to be sure we had entered paradise? Too hard
to think of that now, or anything, when everything
seems to hinge on thought—


Alan Williamson


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