Correspondence

I want to tell you
What the boy said
About Africa.
Not climbing for mangoes,
The night’s breath
Or his malarial fever.
Not even the lost children
Or recurring anticipation
Of long-awaited correspondence,
Which brought home
Mutual linguistic thrill
And other secret loves –
Though these too
Are laced and interwoven.

No.
We have lost
Our pen-and-paper threads,
Amorous or sympathetic connections.
But still I am stricken –
All these years –
By the two things he said:
About Africa,
About the moon.
Holding faded blue batik
Woven through with sunshine
And smelling as it did
Of a faraway
I could never find.

It is good
To be home again.
And,
Having stepped back from it,
I can again pick up the tools,
Resume the restoration.
Pictures emerge
Recalling the decades-old missive,
And again, similarities:
Untarnished loyalty,
The heart’s hidden inclination,
All these secrets to tend,
And always,
Treading back into the forest,
The only path to clarity
I ever knew.

And if I were, to him,
An African moon,
A white glow to puzzle over
In the fevered Somalian night,
My influence lost
In the Indiana farmland;
Then you, now, are these:
Old oak exposed and
Braced against the winter,
Robin, cardinal, cedar waxwing
And the raucous hallelujah chorus,
The gathering in,
Watching the last brilliance
Of the change
As November waxes strong,
And the migratory passage –
A beautiful gray.

And just as he could only find me there –
An unraveling seam of script
In native tongue —
So, too,
Our mutual correspondence
Requires this solitude,
This place,
These knotted threads
To pull or smooth down,
And the ebb and flow
Of time that pulses through it.

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About Emily

I may or may not have: A. Dirt B. Ink C. Paint D. Wool under my fingernails.

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