1 Dear Milton,
Rain. But when you are here, alone, what does it
mean. It means psalm — that song sung to the harp.
Like trees, we too hold on to the earth — pull and
twang for another tongue. It (whatever it is, and
who knows that) is a sacred song. It is strange for
we are the ones who glorify mystery with our arms.
We call it testament because it pries at our souls
with many branches, and so you say with a huge
eye, we must practice our art like the third stomach
of a cud-chewing animal:
“Myrtle, Woodbine, Appletrees, Trillium,
here they are, the strength of your arm
stalls at the open gate of the stars.
Feel everything, trust everything!”
We are always limited to what we ask for (so why
not ask for wings). Therefore, desire becomes a flight
marker. For surely we hover over what we have done
as though we have wings — looking for signs that will
tell us where to go, and if we have gone somewhere,
what it means. Milton, like David of old, like David
of old or any child, we live on the tip of that lean
tongue of invocation with our sling, saying:
“I am small in this bright cataract of pine.
I stand on the smallest stone.
I am a standing prairie dog
praying for my song.”
And so we have come to know: what is sacred is
the storm, how the winds shimmer in the pool. . .
how “brushes are frightened.”
Milton, it is right to say:
“I’m lucky, I’m always lucky.”
“Now, somewhere, as if I were really holy,
I know that my savior is lonely.”
you also know
“The wind has given me its child to hold —
riding on my shoulders with its stars.”
Of course I’m biased; what’s a friend for! But I
think you have done what you should have done —
gone to the fountainhead and glorified in psalm.
It may please you to know that out there, rain,
too, gives in large quantities.
Love to family,
2 Dear Love to Family,
“O mother, momma,
how can I eat this?
My teeth are in my grave,
my promises broken.”
On that anvil called home, we beat out family. It
is enough and lovely to learn from our own. To say,
“Grandma Celia”. . . to say, “Davey, Davey. . . Paula,
On that anvil called home, we are like van Gogh
— thinking always in vivid colors that are both silent
and raging. For without it we would have no capac-
ity for peace — or war. We would be unable to settle
or plan, or to love and fear tales.
This is the center that allows us to pass among
people — the beautiful black night with all the stars. . .
3 Dear Beautiful Black Night with All the Stars,
Swimming in the pool it occurs to you, “I am no one
else.” In this context, completely surrounded, every-
thing must live.
4 Dear Everything Must Live,
No country, no culture, no person, can give us more
than the “rant of the ordinary life.”
5 Dear Rant of the Ordinary Life,
What we hand to our children is our truth. As large
as we are, it is small. Fragile in a bed, you learn
about infirmity’s strong arms:
“What is it? Who’s there?”
Your heart is the real house you breathe in. Old
love’s fantasy is there; it has young feet:
“It is strange:
I want to weep.”
We are never at peace. Because, all our work comes
back. It spies on us as round as the moon:
“Boy, look at the moon!
Look at that moon!
It looks like it’s right
On top of us.”
6 Dear Right on Top of Us,
Around us, life and death. Someone born like us —
gone. Blackburn, like a magician’s stroke of the
wand — gone.
On a freighter, you stare into the water and go to
your ancestral home. You think about small Selma,
all the occupied zones we are, how our fingertips are
almost like birds.
Once, when you were a boy, you let go of the
fence. You are still falling.
7 Dear You Are Still Falling,
You are a cantor whose strange songs absorb
mystery, and that is not sailing too far.
So long. . .