Unanswered Letter by Tess Gallagher

There are letters I have to write. There are letters I want to receive. Wasn’t it Svetlana Alliluyeva who said, “The one good thing about not seeing you is that I can write you letters”?

Unanswered Letter
Tess Gallagher

Your silence is leaning toward judgment.
Yesterday I bragged, writing to calm
my paranoid friend, that I never assume
the worst when my pals don’t write. Now
assuming the worst, I think what I must have
done, or not done. Surely some recognition
will brand the door of my house, or
rich attention flutter down.

How natural, in silence, to credit delay
with intention, like the word oar
insisting on water. The need also to
advise the self around exaggeration,
i.e., “nobody loves me,” because nothing is
coming back, and, next to nothing, not
to act like a transistor radio left on into
the night, voices singing like an ear
baffled by the rain, or someone refused
because they think so.

Those others you loved elsewhere, you miss
what they haven’t said. They belong
to some permission to go on as more
than yourself, a clarity that adds you back
to all you cast off, as when
you want to be the good light of a lamp
scanning the firmament, or rain- its pleasure
with an open boat.

So what is unanswered keeps you coming back
to yourself, telling you what you wanted
only when it didn’t come, having now
to make up this difference.
Even moments you think empty, the world
doesn’t stop speaking – the windshield
blurred suddenly by a sighting of gravestones,
before you are driven
through the underpass.

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