A Letter to Henry

Dear Henry,

I suppose it’s only fair that I start this letter the same way I started all of the ones I wrote to you.  Those are currently sitting on the desk beside me as I type this.  Your brother sent them to me.  I didn’t want them thrown away.  I didn’t want the only evidence of my love for you destroyed.  I’ve thought about putting them in with the ones you sent me, as kind of a timeline of our correspondence, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to look through them except once.

You see, I read through two of the letters I sent you, and I was struck by the depth of love filling them.  I loved you very much.  I still do.  I’m planning on getting a tattoo of a Kerouac quote on my arm, just for you.  I don’t know how well that would go over for you, but you’ve been so integral in my life, so it’s only fitting to have a piece of you documented.

I try not to think about it all, honestly.  Because when I do I start to feel disloyal to my partner.  He’s a fantastic person, and he’s very understanding about the two of us.  The reason I feel disloyal sometimes is because of how much I forgot I love you.  Maybe the saying is true, that after someone’s gone you only remember the good bits.  But I’ve got to disagree with that statement because all of the bits with you were good.  Even when you were being a curmudgeon.

Your letters proved that you weren’t just a cranky person.  You suffered a lot.  The mental anguish you described in some of them, and the allusions to it, reminded me that you were so beautiful.  You were so very loved, and I wanted the world to see you for who I saw you as.  I wanted the members of our little forum to accept the man I saw behind the grumpy messages, the arguments.  I wanted the world to love you like I did.  And I still do.

Your birthday is coming up.  And I will celebrate it, along with a few other things, but mostly I’ll be celebrating you.  I’ve made a deal with my partner.  The morning is for you.  The rest of the day is for me and him.

I have so much I wanted to say to you.  I’ve been preparing myself for grad school.  I know you’d be proud of that.  I’ve been working on being happier, and I know you’d be pleased as punch about it.  I’ve been writing more, too.  Something you and I loved to talk about.  There is so much of your love for writing in our letters.  It made me smile when I read over them again.

Henry, the world is not the same without you.  Days differ on whether it’s too big or too small.  Today it’s just empty.  It’s empty because you’re dead and I didn’t get to tell you enough how much I love you and how cherished you are.

I miss you.  You are the moon, and the moon is a piece of me…

love, Carla



I forget what it feels like to hold your hand,
and I wish I hadn’t let go.
I see your smile sometimes in my mother’s face
and I wish I saw more of it in yours.
Missing you is like stepping on mud,
but now my whole body’s stuck,
and I’m supposed to keep stepping forward.
I left my shoes behind a long time ago,
and I wish I hadn’t been scared to see you die.


My grandmother passed away a week or so ago, and it’s been hard to figure out how to keep being the upbeat person people expect from me.  She had severe Dementia, to the point where she stopped talking and eating, and while it was terrifying to visit her, I feel like an absolute mong for using my fear as an excuse not to see her.

I hope you are all doing well, and if not, hang in there.  The world seems uneasy these days, and we’re not leaving much for the future generations to look on with pride, but believe in the good.  It is there.


The job I want will be one where
I don’t look forward to a day off,
where I’m sad I have to go home
for the day, and delighted to wake
for in the morning.

The crumbly house I want will be one
where I can sit on the deck covered
in bug spray because the lake gets
infested with mosquitoes in summer.

The quiet I want will be one where
I can open my mouth in a yawn
only to hear it echo back to me.

The life I want will be one where
I’m not afraid of myself anymore,
and I’m not broken from poverty,
wondering will it ever be over.

What Are You Worth?

Be thinner, be smarter, be faster, be this, be that;
don’t be yourself, there’s not enough time
for me to explain why. Get in the car, we’re going
to give you a new personality, a new image,
a new body because you aren’t perfect, and never
will be, even after years of trying to breathe under water —
the water of pressure from parents, friends, media-men,
congressmen trying to rule your vagina; you will never
be what anyone truly wants, and all you can do is look
in the mirror and wonder why the hippopotamus never
became a unicorn.

Tribute to Thomas

I found out that one of my classmates from college committed suicide.  I’ve often thought about Thomas, because he was one of the few people who could pull off a prose poem and make it look easy.  If I didn’t see him in class, he was always walking somewhere, whether it be the library, toward home, toward somewhere, anywhere.  I once sat with him after I’d finished my aerobics class, and we happened to end up on the same bench under a pine tree.  We chatted about how classes were going, and he made me laugh about a reference to something from a previous semester.  I believe that was the last time I spoke to him.

I guess the point of this post is to tell you how much of an impact he made on me, even though we weren’t closer than a few sidewalk chats now and then.  He won an undergraduate writers’ gala my senior year, and I remember thinking I was glad he did, because he wasn’t ever too confident in what he wrote.  He told me he thought my piece was better, and he meant it, but only because that’s what he did.  That’s who he was, to me.  He was the one who wrote circles when the rest of the world wrote triangles.  He was kind.  He was gentle, almost too gentle for the world, I think.

I’m very sad he’s no longer here.  He was a good person, from what I saw of him.  I’ll make it a point to remember him, especially today, since it’s his birthday.


I see your face in the advertisements before my favorite videos
I’ve seen about a dozen times, because the way I know how to laugh
when the funny moments happen makes me feel like I can control
at least that one aspect of my life. I see your face in those others
who are not you, and I break into about twelve different pieces
of the person I thought I could be with your help. It makes me wish
I’d been brave enough to ask to hold your hand when I really wanted to,
and I don’t regret not asking, but only because you would have left sooner,
sooner than I would have been able to recover from, and I thank myself for that.
I miss you the way smoke leaves a chimney, unsure of whether it’s for the best,
but the breeze feels like liberation from a world so choked and unwelcoming.
I lie awake at night, knowing you breathe and fill the air where you are,
and I am jealous of that ceiling, knowing your eyes bore holes into it at night
when you think about what students could benefit from longer library hours.
I know I promised I’d never say I love you again, but promises are cookies
left on a counter too long, exposed to the brittle air of others’ happiness.

I’m Beautiful

I’m beautiful when I’m smiling along with your
remarks while we’re buried elbow deep
in flour and there’s chocolate on my apron
from last week, but because I couldn’t
afford to wash it, you point it out every time.

I’m beautiful when I’m laughing at your jokes
about how we’ll be fucking later,
how I make your penis grow, how I make you
hot and horny, how I make you this or that.

I’m beautiful when I let you put your number
in my phone, and when I listen to you talk
like a person instead of a man hitting on a
store-window mannequin.

I’m beautiful when I sit quietly and hold in
my years of increased suffering,
but the moment it comes forward,
you are gone like the smoke of a freshly
extinguished candle.