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Epistolary Art

Lesley Wheeler

Keats thought letters could manifest
the wilful and dramatic exercise
of our minds toward each other.
The professor delivering him to us
is inside her paper, gray-gold head
bent down. Scratch of nib on
stationery, ghost of a thin cold hand.

On the whiteboard behind her:

                  made him articulate

You                               let’s say

In this letter to you I try for a lightning
and thunder effect: the event of writing
closing in on its reverberation

Tacked to the bulletin board: So you feel sick?
Taped to a cabinet: Protect your loved ones,
The reek of my neighbor’s salami and tomato;
from the dirty window eight stories above the street,
a breeze, insect buzz of motorcycle. Unconnected.

There are many ways to be present. You pay to send
a letter and sometimes pay to receive it. Glad coins
for that travelled envelope, beloved scrawl, exotic stamp.
There is no voice but its timbre shakes your heart.

The sky darkens suddenly. Hear the wind, spatter
of drops against glass, as if we’re listening
together. Half-crush the letter
as you yank open a swollen sash. That boom,
let’s say, almost on top of the flash.