Sifting through a notebook of letters I’m supposed to send to a friend. It’s more than a year overdue in the mail, and yet it remains on my desk, a steady presence, as if afraid to leave this house. At almost two hundred pages it’s almost a book. It’s heavy in my hands.

Ianthe writes about her father: “I needed a safe place to explore my feelings about him without having to explain anything to anyone.” I hold the hardback copy of You Can’t Catch Death, and it feels strangely light. As if upon putting words on the page, she has freed her burden.

There are no actual pages I can turn in this place. Just a series of clicks until it gets me where I need to go. Until it lets me say what I need to say. I turn my palms up, carrying nothing. My fingers take turns tapping letter after letter after letter, saying everything.

All Girls Should Have a Poem
Richard Brautigan

For Valerie

All girls should have a poem
written for them even if
we have to turn this God-damn world
upside down to do it.

New Mexico
March 16, 1969

This is from Rommel Drives On Deep Into Egypt by Richard Brautigan, published by Delacorte, 1979.

I read this somewhere and it will haunt me always: “how terrible it is to love something that death can touch.”

The death of poets I love brought me to tears. I think about Szymborska, who died on S.’ birthday. He adored her probably more than I did. I thought about her dying in her sleep. Hoped she was warm. Remembered that little smile at the corners of her mouth.

I think about Rich and all the things I owe her. I was on my knees rearranging my bookshelf when a friend told me she passed. I could never forget the floor, how the cold seeped into my bones. Remembered a class, freshman year, that changed a lot of things for me, because of her poem. Wished someone held her hand in her last few moments.

I think about Gilbert and his dementia, of words failing him, of him losing all the words! Of being at a nursing home. Of dying alone. Wondered if he asked for someone, remembered someone, in the end. Michiko. Linda. God, Linda. I cried for days. Nights.

The death of Brubeck broke my heart. I played La Paloma Azul over and over. I was alone in the house and I was mourning him, and my hand slipped on the remote and it skipped to Blue Rondo A La Turk and I curled into a ball, on the floor, by the sofa, feeling like the world has taken everything from me at last.

The death of hundreds who were washed out by the flood haunts me every night now. All those people I cannot save.

How does one begin writing about grief? Every time I do, it always seems an injustice to everything else I have not mourned.

I once wrote to C.: everything is fleeting, and nothing ever really lasts. This wounds me deeply

You arrive at one moment, out of the blue, all of a sudden, like when you are riding a cab, or brushing your teeth, or turning to glance at someone—and suddenly the pain is there, the emptiness, the bleeding. And there is only so much you can do, so much you can hold on to.

She replied with: And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?

Brautigan says, in his book where this poem appears, I mean: Can you forgive yourself

I think I’m getting there.

Finding is Losing Something Else
Richard Brautigan

Finding is losing something else.
I think about, perhaps even mourn,
       what I lost to find this.

This is from Loading Mercury With a Pitchfork by Richard Brautigan, published by Simon and Schuster, 1976.

Listening to Yo-Yo Ma’s Cello Concerto, Op85 – Adagio. Working in a trance, as another typhoon sweeps through the streets outside. You are already naked, says the voice in my head, there is no reason not to follow your heart. I think I finally know what the future can be like.

We Stopped at Perfect Days
Richard Brautigan

We stopped at perfect days
and got out of the car.
The wind glanced at her hair.
It was as simple as that.
I turned to say something—

This is from Rommel Drives On Deep Into Egypt by Richard Brautigan, published by Delacorte, 1979.

Plans foiled by the little details. But I am still feeling lighter than usual, like my skin and flesh have finally found a way to unclasp themselves from my bones.

As the Bruises Fade, the Lightning Aches
Richard Brautigan

As the bruises fade, the lightning aches.
Last week, making love, you bit me.
Now the blue and dark have gone
and yellow bruises grow toward pale daffodils,
then paler to become until my body
is all my own and what that ever got me.

This is from Rommel Drives On Deep Into Egypt by Richard Brautigan, published by Delacorte, 1979.

Copied in haste on the back of a receipt.

Love Poem
Richard Brautigan

     It’s so nice
to wake up in the morning
     all alone
and not have to tell somebody
     you love them
when you don’t love them
     any more.

This is from The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster by Richard Brautigan, published by Dell, 1969.