In which love is a letter

Two poems on love letters (mine) and an actual love letter (not mine)

the inconvenience of old love letters

you keep them in old boxes,
one for each of your exes,
and lock them up in rooms
that are never dusted,
whose windows are never opened,
the voices of lost loves
condemned to silence.

you live in fear that,
one day, your husband
or your child would wander
into one of your secret places,
stumble upon these boxes,
and come face to face
with ghosts from your past.

so sometimes you think
of taking them out
and burning them
in some quiet backyard corner,
but you wonder:
when the flames devour
the scented papers,
will the wind carry
the words to the gods?
will you be forgiven?

and so you keep them
in old boxes, in rooms
where the air is stale
and heavy with silence.
and you wish the dust
of all the years
would eventually cover
traces of yourself in them
but, you, of all people,
should know better.


Love Letter

No one heard the sound
Of her heart breaking
When she reluctantly ripped
The scented sheet
First, into a dozen strips,
Then, a thousand tiny bits.

The perfumed pieces
Inscripted with fractions
Of her words, her truncated
Statements—fragments of
Her feelings—fell silently
From her trembling hands
To the empty street.

No one heard her heart
Screaming in pain,
Crashing to the floor,
Smashing against concrete,
Shattering like glass
All around her feet.

No one spoke in muted tones
About her heart and
The violence of its breaking.
The wind (quite naturally)
Just scattered pieces of it—
Love and longing
silenced by misgivings.

She felt herself
Swiftly yet steadily


Lifted from

In 1967, 20-year-old Patti Smith moved to New York and met her “soul mate,” Robert Mapplethorpe — a then-aspiring and since-celebrated photographer who quickly become her lover. They lived and worked together for the next 7 years. 22 years later, by which time they had long separated but were still close friends, Robert, 42, passed away after being diagnosed with AIDS.

In the days preceding his death, Patti wrote him the following letter. Sadly, he didn’t get a chance to read it.

Dear Robert,

Often as I lie awake I wonder if you are also lying awake. Are you in pain or feeling alone? You drew me from the darkest period of my young life, sharing with me the sacred mystery of what it is to be an artist. I learned to see through you and never compose a line or draw a curve that does not come from the knowledge I derived in our precious time together. Your work, coming from a fluid source, can be traced to the naked song of your youth. You spoke then of holding hands with God. Remember, through everything, you have always held that hand, grip it hard, Robert, and don’t let go.

The other afternoon, when you fell asleep on my shoulder, I drifted off, too. But before I did, it occured to me looking around at all of your things and your work and going through years of work in my mind, that of all your work, you are still your most beautiful. The most beautiful work of all.




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