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Dear Mr. Merrill

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I hope you'll pardon the informality   
of this letter, postmarked Olympia   
(Greece, not Washington), its task not simple:   
crossing lines you've crossed, time, mortality,   
to find you, who spent a lifetime crossing lines   
out, twisting, polishing them to shine   

cool and lustrous as the statue I fell in   
love with yesterday. I'm sure you saw him   
too, that perfect Hermes by Praxitelis,   
full lips, hips contrapposto. I wished to draw him   
down, latter-day Pygmalion, and embrace   
him. Or barring Eros (and the guards) I'd trace   

his face, the supple muscle of the marble.   
I had a student who resembled him—   
yes, Angelos—arrogant and beautiful.   
I never touched him though he touches me in dreams.   
Eros dangles his perfection in our faces   
like one-armed Hermes with his promise of the grapes.   

I was certain I'd dream of him last night.   
Instead I dreamed another in the growing chain   
of others with whom it ended not quite   
right. But the thirst was perfect, if its price pain   
and shattered crystal, spilling wine, all part   
and parcel of our imperfect lives. Then Art   

startles out of heartache, marble or page.   
You learned this long ago. Now I too see   
the wildest things require the strongest cages,   
the panther's double bars, or the seeds,   
bloodysweet and bitter, in the pomegranate's   
rind. Love held tight in a sonnet.

Source: Poetry

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This poem originally appeared in the June 2002 issue of Poetry magazine

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Dear Mr. Merrill

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