David Graham
Letters from the Dead

Mostly it's all jabber and babble, chaff
pouring off the yellowed pages,
jaunty quips and pro forma feelings.
So sorry not to write sooner, they say,

and you can see they are unsorry as cats,
these long-vanished voices gathered now
in shoeboxes, bound by stiff rubber bands.
They're so unaware of the grinding gears

of time, you have to stop reading,
rise on creaky knees from the closet,
and look out the window for a minute
at dusk collecting in the blue spruce.

Well, it was a lot of fun, they report,
just back from Bimini or Holland,
leaving no record of any actual fun, already
fretting about falling behind at work.

They say saw this article and thought of you,
though the clipping long since fell out
and you don't recognize the handwriting.
Someone, somewhere, sometime

thought of you.  No news of impending
death, or religious terror, or
the finely milled sadness of life.  No,
they are looking forward to the new job,

first grandchild, upcoming move to Tampa,
and at most they're uneasily ironic
about the hurricanes that will sweep
their coastlines and upend all the trees.

We would die laughing if it were funny,
if it were not our hands opening
those dusty envelopes, our shelves
we pile the letters on--to be re-read

later, when we're better able to face it,
when things will be a little less crazy
around here, after we're back from Bimini
or Holland, and able at last to relax.

For no one ever writes goodbye, this is it,
even near the palpable end.  They write
more later, I'm tired now, and these
are the words we must carve on their stones.