One of my life-long preoccupations continues to be how to write about loss, how to attend to the thing that is beyond one’s grasp. In “Dear Gone” Grey Vild stumbles around in the desert of loss, reaching and reaching only to find that what was is no longer. There is no language for this, as Vild seems acutely aware. Instead, he gropes toward memory—it too, an unstable realm: “Am I only appealing to the memory of a memory” as a statement, not a question. “Dear Gone” is not only a love letter to the person who no longer exists, it asks: What does the world want from us? What does it take to live? Where does anguish reside? And, what do we do when what is supposed to hold us participates in our annihilation? Grey Vild attends to these questions through the weighted knob of grief—in this case, a necessary, urgent, and heart-wrenching lens—which almost produces its shadowy depth the figure itself, the Gone one, however fleeting, in our imaginations.

—Dawn Lundy Martin

***

Dear Gone,
I have begun this letter so many times, you’d think we had beginnings left.

 

Dear Gone,
You would be wrong.

 

Dear Gone,
Your hair, a fury of red and your hands, thrown up in gesture.

 

Dear Gone,
You were always that fury, a nerve lit, a brilliance of fear delight rage.

 

Dear Gone,
I call him on the phone and cry your name as calmly as I can and he knows what happened. The one word I won’t speak.

 

Dear Gone,
What it takes to break a body is more than anyone wants to know or say.

 

Dear Gone,
In the wake of your seismic went, we are a thousand eyes turned inward on each other.

 

Dear Gone,
I used to think we were so small. Much too small to hold one life, to hold your life—without crushing it under the weight of so much, gone. Of a crevice too small for all our terror and ambition, for all the ways we eat our young.

 

Dear Gone,
But now I see the way we hold your death. And drop it, sometimes. On our bare toes, in the middle of the night, sobbing at the kitchen sink. Sometimes. It cracks and spills, becomes the muck we slog through. And then, it crawls away. Finds a hiding place so it can surprise us all over again. From the vantage of a sunny day of the best news of a lover’s kiss.

 

Dear Gone,
Of a bus jolting down a street we once walked, some kids smoking on a stoop told us we were beautiful—do you remember? That small kindness made me so afraid of the fear that made that moment such reprieve. Does this mean we’re reading, not reading, are we in danger, could I ever be strong enough to protect you, from the fear or from the danger.

 

Dear Gone,
One thing remains unchanged. The answer was always no.

 

Dear Gone,
The things you wanted were so simple: work, love, a home, maybe a family. I know how impossible those things seem, when even your best life takes so many forms of exile.

So impossible, you stop wanting altogether.

 

Dear Gone,
And are we bitter? Of course we are.

 

Dear Gone,
How can I blame you, when I know. When a body feels like a corpse, death is contiguous. The years of no man no woman trapped in. Nothing like a creature that might exist. A concrete slab of flesh, every lie its hollow breathing.

 

Dear Gone,
And still, I blame you.

 

Dear Gone,
That little blue dress is just a thread.

 

Dear Gone,
Remember, that winter—I didn’t realize how sad you were. Until you started talking about adopting a pet pig...

It’s like having a several-hundred-pound two year old for 15-20 years. Because they’re so smart!

I tried to convince you that you had lost your mind—besides you can’t have a pet you can’t lift if it gets sick, and I’m sure as hell not carrying your precious bacon across the threshold to the vet.

Listen, Grey—a transsexual walking alone in the park, that’s just… sad. A transsexual walking her pig in park, now that is precious.

There’s a one-eyed pig named Churchill up for adoption right now. Did you know there are three different kinds of tails? They’re not all curlicue, that’s a stereotype …

 

Dear Gone,
All the best anecdotes about your humor, the quick, cutting snark, are far too crass to write here. It was one of the things I loved about you the most.

 

Dear Gone,
You hate it when I break the fourth wall.

 

Dear Gone,
Hated.

 

Dear Gone,
Sometimes that quick wit drew bitter conclusions. Someone told me once that depression was convincing. I believed him. Isn’t anxiety also. Convincing. Isn’t fear? Bearing the shame of the society that created you? Isn’t it all terribly convincing?

 

Dear Gone,
The purse of your mouth when you’re really thinking. When you’re on the edge of words that will leave me a rattled awe. The laugh between guffaw and giggle, that sudden height. I can remember it perfectly for a second, then it’s gone.

 

Dear Gone,
I have begun this letter countless times.

 

Dear Gone,
Countless times, I have thrown it away.

 

Dear Gone,
The service was last night. All the song in the world and you are still dead. My mother listens to my sobbing on the phone, do we both seem a little afraid. Your death makes a strange confession.

 

Dear Gone,
She says, what a waste, to go through all that. And I think I know what she means: how much pain we caused each other. The years we didn’t speak. If we’d ever be a family again. In her voice, a worry with so many years behind it.

 

Dear Gone,
I also know how many times you can try to tell yourself, I’ve made it this far, it’s enough, it has to be—but what is enough? Do we have a place in the world?

 

Dear Gone,
The literature says the dream is to be invisible. The literature doesn’t seem to know much of our real lives: the befores, the afters of their precious dramatic transitional arc. The literature says we die so many ways, the literature cannot count.

 

Dear Gone,

This year, I’m trying to reinvent myself —the hardest working bitch in the biz.

It seemed like you said that every year, usually in the spring. Trying to make it all up at once. You would use yourself up, crash.

 

Dear Gone,
Why were we so embarrassed to admit how hard it is?

 

Dear Gone,
And now, no one seems to know how to talk about it. It’s been two months. Every morning, you don’t wake.

 

Dear Gone,
It’s like seeing the death you wanted for so long, on the wrong body.

 

Dear Gone,
I wanted it so thoroughly; I thought I would never really want anything else.

 

Dear Gone,
How to attach to a body that only leaves and leaves, again. That forms around de-forming: that steals, separates, self from self, so young.

 

Dear Gone,
When the hormones, the surgeries, are supposed to fix it. When they don’t. When they do. And they don’t.

 

Dear Gone,
And yet, we form around each other.

 

Dear Gone,
Those first weeks, we are all left vibrating one fearful frequency—almost liquid. In constant contact, calling, texting, to say nothing sometimes, to sigh or cry or rant. Always waiting for the next shoe to drop.

 

Dear Gone,
The people you love can’t stomach food. The people you love can’t get through the day without crying. The people you love are a jangle of nerves. The people you love can’t get out of bed. The people you love are constantly sick. It’s been months now. The people you love don’t know how to talk anymore. We reach for one another and sometimes we touch and sometimes we don’t but how can any of it matter when nothing will bring you back. When we were not enough to keep you alive.

 

Dear Gone,
Is it foolish to think this can never happen again?

 

Dear Gone,
It already has.

 

Dear Gone,
The last time, I was the one who was suicidal and drunk and mean.

 

Dear Gone,
That night, I was a real monster. Not the one I always imagined myself to be. The one born of all that imagining. And belief.

 

Dear Gone,
You wouldn’t tell me what I said. I always assumed it was what I was thinking: bitter things about pulling the river over my head like a cold blanket. Now that you’re gone, I wonder. Because you made it real. Because I want some blame.

 

Dear Gone,
I’ve always tried to keep the people I loved far enough that I could keep my hate for myself. An old survival tactic, really. But we were a war. It’s a kind of intimacy, of understanding. To know the worst of each other.
The kind I never wanted to share with anyone.

 

Dear Gone,
It’s a beautiful afternoon. Finally, thaw. The kind of clouds that roll under your skin and pull you into sun so hard you just couldn’t carry winter anymore. Even if you wanted to.

 

Dear Gone,
I would give anything to be avoiding you at this party.

 

Dear Gone,
Every girl with seismic hair, none of them you.

 

Dear Gone,
Do you remember? Talking about the queens back home. How lucky we were to get out.

 

Dear Gone,
Do you remember, when Donna died? We were barely on speaking terms, but I called you as soon as I heard. Were you ok? Yes. No. It’s not that you were close, even. Some vague drama I can’t recall. But she was a sweet girl. This one had you really shook up. We cried and talked into the morning. You see hurt differently in someone you’ve hurt. At least we had that. You talked about the last time you tried. The things you said that you regret. You still thought about it, imagined it nice and easy: pills, sleep. Relief. I don’t know what I said. I wasn’t really talking about it then. As usual, the knowing seemed too full to speak. I recognized the ease you deserved then, praying you’d never take it: what I can’t allow you now. And you would laugh at me for being insolent.

 

Dear Gone,
We made that promise. Of course. It’s hilarious now. Fucking hilarious. I didn’t tell you how many people have made me make that promise. For more years than I’d care to admit. But I never made it with someone. Not like that. A mutual act. Looking back, we both seemed a little unsure. Then you swooped in, queened out,

I mean—OH HELL NO—
you will NOT make me sit shiva with the bitches you fuck.

 

Dear Gone,
I wish I’d asked you then all the questions I have now.

 

Dear Gone,
The death that seems, almost a logic of feeling, inevitable, even: how do we learn to outlive it? Every day? How do we break these habits that are thoughts, yes, but also ways of feeling, of embodiment or disembodiment. The strange comfort. Of gone.

And where do you get the space to disrupt that awful comfort, when you’re afraid to walk down the street, to get medical care, housing, employment. How disrupt the false safeties we make, of the sin of despair, and of our fortifications against it. How do we find a way to get some kind of foothold, some ease, in bodies so loaded with shame.

 

Dear Gone,
How can it be too late to beg you. Not to throw away, what you’ve been told, countless times.

 

Dear Gone,
Bundled against the cold and a fear our most wicked laughter will never shut up. Underground again, the zoetrope on the B/Q before it shoots out across the bridge and into the city. It was like something we saw as children: the vaguely peopled shapes and the rocket that clumsily leaves nowhere for any. I wanted to be the size of the train, to bundle you against, until we could both be safely unseen. Or the big of that cartoonly taking off, silly enough to take any dreaming with it. But the fear, ceaseless, that lit your face, so alive, was a kind of beyond.

 

Dear Gone,
Am I only appealing to the memory of a memory.

 

Dear Gone,
In death, do we get bodies that don’t hurt us? That don’t make every household object seem nothing compared to what a little flesh can do.

 

Dear Gone,
You’ll have a new body, you’ll have a new life.

 

Dear Gone,
I don’t want to make your name a kind of flag or song. I want to speak it to you or never again.

 

Dear Gone,
The scalded landscape where you want to obliterate everyone who loves you, but most of all, yourself. That was where I knew you, that was home. We had no other country.

 

Dear Gone,
It is spring. Even the sick planet knows to bloom, if not when. If the magnolias and the crocuses, at once. It is spring, like nothing is final.

 

Dear Gone,
I had the strangest day. It was like you could feel time was there for you. Like you could stay alive, like the days, the months, the years might keep unfolding. It is against all knowing.

 

Dear Gone,
I’ve never had a day like this before.
I wonder if you ever did.

 

Dear
Never another blue sky.

 

Dear Gone,
I am playing hide and seek with you, the part of my head that’s open chasm, all sky. A ruins.

 

Dear Gone,
Our daily lives were unspeakable before you left. And now.

 

Dear Gone,
I have a personal relationship with a God I don’t believe in.

 

Dear Gone,
I used to think that every time one of us takes our life, it’s a little more impossible for the rest of us to stay alive. But in the wake of you, it has never seemed more important to stay alive.

 

Dear Gone,
I hate that this is what it took.

 

Dear Gone,
I don’t know who to be angry with anymore.

 

Dear Gone,
There’s a tasteless, self-effacing joke I would make here but you are the only one who would understand it.

 

Dear Gone,
Purim—remember? We got so gone I saw birds scrawled in your hair, like cotton candy melts after your tongue, red sparks in a red cumulus.

You were the only person I trusted that night.

 

Dear Gone,
We pretend we don’t notice. How often you were the only girl at the party. Whose lives get celebrated. Whose deaths. Who cares only once you’re gone. How many girls are left wondering how they will stay alive, if you couldn’t.And how do we keep ourselves alive, when we can’t keep them from killing us. Our sisters. The endless fissures. Where so many, gone.

 

Dear Gone,
The bitterness of that service.
How well you were known and loved.

Let it glue you to the earth.

 

Dear Gone,
We are writing a language no one understands, scrawled in our own pathogens.

 

Dear
The cherry blossoms will be here soon.

 

Dear
Please, don’t remember.

 

Dear Gone,
Just come back and hate me already. You can hate me all you want.

 

Dear Gone,
I wish I had only, begun.

 

Dear Gone,
I could hardly speak to cis people for days after I found out. I didn’t tell my best friend for a week. And I don’t get like that. It’s not their fault. Even when it is, it’s never their fault. But a friend was visiting from out of town. So I’m trying to talk about what happened. I can’t not. And the diagnostics come out. Every heavy-hitter in the DSM. Apparently, we’re quite the comorbidity.

 

Dear Gone,
I always thought we both believed in a kind of death like justice.

 

Dear Gone,
Don’t be too brilliant, too beautiful to live. Get stupid, get ugly, get down on our level and stay.

 

Dear Gone,
Who am I to say you should have stayed, suffered more.
Who are you to say we should have to live without you.

 

Dear Gone,
This morning I went to a talk for mental health providers working with trans youth. You were still dead. They were still gatekeepers, dead naming our friends in their limitless compassion.

 

Dear Gone,
Were we ever really children. Watching you laugh, some moments you were so young. The way we must have, once. The laughter buried before we ever knew who we were, just that we had to hide, everything.

 

Dear Gone,
Do we get to be adults? Does anyone take us that seriously? What do we own but the brutal transition, the endless adolescence, our cute fringe world where we’d like to live by different rules but too often we have changed only in name.

 

Dear Gone,
The anger is my way of keeping you. I know I can only fail.

 

Dear Gone,
How afraid we were. To admit how afraid we were.
I mean, we knew
we were lucky,
statistically.

 

Dear Gone,
Walking, statistically.
Speaking. Fucking statistically & lying,
Doll-like in our needled, statistics—
And in our finest

 

Dear Gone,
You’ve gone
and fit a new one.

As usual, I am a little jealous.

 

Dear Gone,
The candles sink in their sockets—

 

Dear Gone,
It’s Easter. You are still, gone. I will go to the church I grew up in, in my new suit, to watch my mother sing in the choir, to weep like a child. This is what the living do.

 

Dear Forever,
Give her back.

***

 

Notes:

The phrase seismic went and the lines I am playing hide and seek with you reference Corey Zeller’s "I’m going to do a few things can’t nobody follow" and "When the rest of you were busy being children," respectfully.

The lines you’ll have a new body, you’ll have a new life refer to Hank William’s "I’ll Have a New Body (I’ll Have a New Life)."

The line the candles sink in their sockets is from C.D Wright’s "only the crossing counts."

The line this is what the living do, quoted from Marie Howe’s poem, "What The Living Do."

Originally Published: April 20th, 2016

Grey Vild is a Queer Art Mentorship & Brooklyn Poets fellow. His work has been published or is forthcoming in Them, Fault, Elderly, Vetch, and Winter Tangerine. He is beginning his MFA at Rutgers University and is working on his first collection of poems, The M4T Files.