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Red August Letter


ISSUE:  Winter 1986
Dear Friend:

The day you brought me geraniums,
my period came. That night I had a red dream,
red walls, lamps. You were a photographer
in a darkroom developing shots I couldn’t
quite make out. I asked you how you balanced
opposing needs. You shrugged and lifted
pictures out of a chemical bath.

In the photo you left of the party, who is
the feral-looking poet in the rumpled suit?
Woman hater? Once I would have memorized his poems.
The rain goes on. I’ve read your note, its chaste,
familiar script on a monogrammed blue page. I write.
My paper laps up ink. Stamps curl. A vague
taste of stickum lingers on my mouth.

Slack hours. Do you ever imagine the atoms
of your watch pulsing in a fading light?
Take a stand, intones my clock from its orderly
frontier. I resolve to reconcile odds and ends,
to inspect, put things out of sight, receive
the house-god, give him loose-skinned oranges,
an offering for auspicious news.

Was it last spring, after we’d found the cardinal’s
nest fastened to a branch of pine, we spoke of ways
to stave off birth? What I didn’t say was that
my scrap of a child sometimes floats in the back
of my head like a sea-creature, open-mouthed
as if it were startled or in pain to learn its
name would not be called.

Why hadn’t I known of the Zulu woman
who counted stars in her labor from a hole
in the ceiling of her hut? Would knowing it
have changed the fact I didn’t have the spunk
to watch the tight bud open to a rose,
giving birth to a red dream, to alpha, a letter
in August, giving birth to fingerprints
in a spectrum of light?

Tonight Mars and Venus are aligned in the summer
sky. Come with your prints and films. All week
opulent sunsets have fallen on soaked roads.
Forecasters say nothing we haven’t heard.
I want to hear your reflector dream, your daughter
dream, to be brought into communion with old ghosts.

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