I don’t even know how I started this
letter to you. Perhaps it’s the smell
of smoke that hangs in the air, thick
in the morning like carded wool, or
vapors swirling in the glass vase of
a hookah. A bald-faced hornet propels
his smudged wings in dopey, erratic flight,
back and forth across the grass. A fire’s
been raging in the Great Dismal Swamp
since lightning struck a week ago, un-
erring like your hand. Old legends say
a firebird built a nest of flame there,
which later filled with rain. In any case,
now I remember what it is I meant
to ask you— what were you really
thinking in that small interval,
between all those times you raised
the rifle sights and the bullet hit
its target? No time for doubt to spin
like a dime in the air, a speckled
glass ball, a marked clay pigeon?
Clatter of the tin plate leaving
your husband’s hand, thinnest edge
of the playing card sliced through
and through and through again.
I thought that before I turned
fifty, I’d have learned at least
a few of your tricks— But here
I am, rounding the bend, squinting
at landscape that’s mostly peat
and water. Who is that, ninety
feet away, leaning against a dry
tree and lighting a cigarette?
If I aim true, one well-placed
shot will put it out. Or we
could all go up in flames.
In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.