I wonder what people in my life think when I send them long, rambling letters. I write them when I am entirely out of sorts, but I write them when the cusp is full, too. I rarely get many replies, at least, not as much as I would like to have in return—another voice in the dark whispering back, so as to remind me I am not alone.

I wonder if I write letters because I am alone. I wonder if I write this—all of this—because I want to extend my hand in front of me, hoping the tips of my fingers will touch you all the way there. Because—well, whatever for, yes?

Also, the false positives, like I’m so sure I’m doing a lot of shit wrong, that there’s a presence of wrongness somewhere here, I write in one letter. And then: questions upon questions upon questions.

A. writes back: Being loved doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be happy. I could feel S.’s smile at the corner of his mouth when he says, Lovely to hear from you, but your timing is crap.

R. tells me: Remember in your desire and doubt what you actually care about. I feel pretty clear about what matters, but I forget, then remind myself, then forget.

I keep writing. Each day I try to remember what I can be thankful for: the next day arriving, myself checking to see that I’m still here.

Spring Reign
Dean Young

Thank you whoever tuned the radio
to rain, thank you who spilled
the strong-willed wine for not
being me so I’m not to blame. I’m glad

I’m not that broken tree although
it looks sublime. And glad I’m not
taking a test and running out of time.
What’s a tetrahedron anyway? What’s

the sublime, 3,483 divided by 9,
the tenth amendment, the ferryman’s name
on the River Styx? We’re all missing
more and more tricks, losing our grips,

guilty of crimes we didn’t commit.
The horse rears and races then moves no more,
the sports coupe grinds to a stop, beginning
a new life as rot, beaten to shit. Whitman

grass stain, consciousness swamp gas,
the bones and brain, protoplasm and liver,
ground down like stones in a river. Or does
the heart’s cinder wash up as delta froth

out of which hops frog spawn, dog song,
the next rhyming grind, next kid literati?
Maybe the world’s just a bubble, all
philosophy ants in a muddle,

an engine inside an elk’s skull on a pole.
Maybe an angel’s long overdue and we’re
all in trouble. Meanwhile thanks whoever
for the dial turned to green downpour, thanks

for feathery conniptions at the seashore
and moth-minded, match-flash breath.
Thank you for whatever’s left.

This is from Poetry, Volume 199 Number 5, published by the Poetry Foundation, February 2012.

You know what? Maybe it is. The world knows I am not the easiest person to love.

Then again, was love ever easy? Even the sun must say goodbye.

He Said Turn Here
Dean Young

and then Tony showed us the lake
where he had thrown some of his sadness last summer
and it had dissolved like powder
so he thought maybe the lake could take
some of the radiant, aluminum kind
he had been making lately.
And it did.
It was a perfect lake,
none of the paint had chipped off,
no bolts showing, the arms that Dante
and Virgil would have to hack through
not even breaking the surface.
Mumbling Italian to itself,
it had climbed down two wooden stairs
back to the beach now that the rains were done.
How strange to be water so close to the ocean
yet the only other water you get to talk to
comes from the sky. Maybe this is why
it seems so willing to take on
Tony’s sadness which sometimes corrodes
his friends, which is really
many different sadnesses, smaller
and smaller, surrounded by more
and more space, each a world and
at its core an engine like a bee
inside a lily, like buzzing inside
the bee. It seems like nothing
could change its color although
we couldn’t tell what color it was,
it kept changing. In the summer,
Tony says he comes down early each day
and there’s no one around so the lake
barely says a thing when he dives in
and once when his kitchen was on fire in Maine
and he was asleep, the lake came and bit his hand,
trying to drag him to safety
and some nights in New Mexico,
he can hear it howling,
searching for him in the desert
so we’re glad Tony has this lake
and we promise to come back in August
and swim with him across,
maybe even race.

I forgot about this poem.

Other Obit
Dean Young

Night, what more do you want? Why this second per second
scream? My friend Nick used to sit all night in the same
booth all night with a pile of quarters for pinball and
jukebox. He loved the one where the balls disappeared
up the bonus-lit chute. He loved the song where the wife
smelled shirts, all tilt and jilt and sometimes he’d
bring back a waitress who’d play the records we never
played. You know the ones, everyone has those records. It
was the age of Aquarius and once we wanted to remember
the comedy, movies, the primitive flutes. I’d come down
and there they’d be, nearly glamorous with smoke and wine,
all the shades pulled. Night, even then you couldn’t give
up, there was your lariat in the corner, your ashes
everywhere. It might have been the drugs we kept zip-
locked in the cranial cavity of, a pig, a skull Nick
found where a pig had died or at least a pig’s head had
died. Aren’t I cute? Don’t you like my legs? Night, what
pleases you? From the beginning, the body’s full of
holes. Night, these are the facts and the philosophy of
facts. See how they grin back fast faces like the 23
windows he fell past. Jumped past. When does a jump
become a fall? There were a few more floors but 23 was
enough, enough climbing he must have thought then opened
the window by the stairs. I thought at least there’d be
a note. Help or a simple declarative sentence. They
seemed to take forever with the organ, the hot-house
arrangements and how his parents hated me that open-holed
day. Adios, au revoir, good night. You want me on my
knees? I’m on my knees. When I was a child I’d listen to
the owls rouse their fiefdoms. Say the little prayer.
When I was a child. When I was a cantaloupe. When I was
an enemy spacecraft hovering over the Pentagon. Tick
tock and such a puddle. Tick tock my soul to keep. Tick
tock and such deep wagons on so many panged wheels.

And don’t we all know it.

The Business of Love is Cruelty
Dean Young

It scares me the genius we have
for hurting one another. I’m seven,
as tall as my mother kneeling and
she’s kneeling and somehow I know

exactly how to do it, calmly,
enunciating like a good actor projecting
to the last row, shocking the ones
who’ve come in late, cowering

out of their coats, sleet still sparkling
on their collars, the voice nearly licking
their ears above the swordplay and laments:
I hate you.

Now her hands are rising to her face.
Now the fear done flashing through me,
I wish I could undo it, take it back,
but it’s a question of perfection,

carrying it through, climbing the steps
to my room, chosen banishment, where
I’ll paint the hair of my model
Bride of Frankenstein purple and pink,

heap of rancor, vivacious hair
that will not die. She’s rejected
of course her intended, cathected
the desires of six or seven bodies

onto the wimp Doctor. And Herr Doktor,
what does he want among the burning villages
of his proven theories? Well, he wants
to be a student again, free, drunk,

making the cricket jump, but
his distraught monster’s on the rampage
again, lead-footed, weary, a corrosive
and incommunicable need sputtering

his chest, throwing oil like a fouled-up
motor: how many times do you have to die
before you’re really dead?

Where I live, we have a home development mutual fund that everybody calls, Pag-IBIG. It’s an acronym for Pagtutulungan sa Kinabukasan: Ikaw, Bangko Industriya at Gobyerno (Working Together for the Future: You, Industrial Banks and the Government – my translation, don’t quote me on this). It has several branches/offices scattered across the metro, which means jeepneys include it as one of their stops. A while ago, N. was tweeting during the commute, and said this:

I like it when people go down at pag-ibig fund bldg.they say:isang pag-ibig,pag-ibig lang,sa pag-ibig,etc.

(I like it when people go down at [the] Pag-IBIG fund building. They say [to the driver]: one person stopping at Pag-IBIG, just until Pag-IBIG, to Pag-IBIG, etc.)

In our native tongue, pag-ibig means love.

Thinking about Dean Young’s heart, and my heart, and other writers’ hearts.

The Invention of Heaven
Dean Young

The mind becomes a field of snow
but then the snow melts and the dandelions
blink on and you can walk through them,
your trousers plastered with dew.
They’re all waiting for you but first
here’s a booth where you can win

a peacock feather for bursting a balloon,
a man in huge stripes shouting about
a boy who is half swan, the biggest
pig in the world. Then you will pass
tractors pulling other tractors,
trees snagged with bright wrappers

and then you will come to a river
and then you will wash your face.