Dear Seth cover

Dear Seth

Heather Christle

Copyright © 2014 Heather Christle. All rights reserved.





for Seth Landman





Dear Seth
You have been disappointed
in love and I am sorry
that to hope
for and to imagine love is to possess it
however briefly
      so that when the picture
does not come clear one experiences
not only sadness but loss
     We had an appointment
These dumb risks of ours these dumb arms
How aversion is the urge to look away
I know the general uselessness
of looking to words for answers
but on occasion
the cast spell works
    so we still mutter
what we can
We stutter Try

Dear Seth
It’s snowing again lightly in Ohio
like it had an idea and thought
There’s no harm
      in trying it out
before growing distracted
by some town I cannot see
For you in Massachusetts I hope
for enough weather
    that the office gives up
and tells you to stay home
Do you remember the day we drove
out to the gorge?
      I could not see
the difference between the pale sky
and the ground
      like the snow
had erased the whole horizon
It was a good day and I miss you
I hope you are well

Dear Seth
There is fear the baby
when it arrives will be wrongly
or poorly loved
      that the world is no place
for helpless things
  You will see
reading this through your good beard
how neatly
      I have left myself out
though I understand
      come spring
such grammar tricks
will no longer work

Dear Seth
Yesterday was Thanksgiving
and for you Hanukkah
At dinner
with acquaintances my joke
about terminal illness did not go over
and the small spark I’d hoped to kindle
in myself went dark
    Of the many
things I miss about your company
today most keenly I think
of us laughing at death
and not minding that death laughs back

Dear Seth
I love your long-standing appreciation
for the Voyager mission
    whose equipment
is now very old
    When I imagine the adolescent you
delivering the science fair spiel
I picture the body as you now
at a four-fifths scale
the way they used to paint the child Christ
before looking more carefully
at the actual young
   Neil Armstrong died
the same day Voyager finally reached the limit
of our solar system
  as you know
Thanks to him we better see
how to go about painting the moon

Dear Seth
I am still thinking about space
For a long time they did not know
if Voyager had crossed the heliopause
and we lived
in the strange interim
of an event perhaps having occurred
in the uncertainty of something
having happened
without knowing what
It is like wondering which body part
has begun to kill us
    Chris is very worried
about his eyes
  his mismatched pupils
but I think and say they’re probably just fine

Dear Seth
Now Chris is visiting you
in Northampton and the house around
me exists
  just one room at a time
Nelson Mandela has died
The radio
  can think of little else
You would not believe my pride
at having shoveled the driveway
My shame
    when I fail
to start the fire
   I am actually
alive inside this mythic air
a child assigns
   to the time
before its birth
Were there a proverb for this week
it’d go a little like
He who lives
inside a snowglobe always drowns

Dear Seth
Watching Frances Ha the other night
I fell into the panic of my old New York life
with all its drinking
and so little money
Representations of debt terrify me more
than those of sickness
    I would love to draft a chart
of my heart rate when reading Madame Bovary
Last night success in building the fire
and Chris has come home happy
      as I knew
you would make him
    The first night he ate
fried chicken and you ordered pork chops
and these are real plates of food
that make me feel strong and alive
If only
I could think as tenderly of myself as I do
of you and of my former selves!
but this is not the case
      and therefore not a part
of the everything that we still call the world
like the soot on my hands
    the voice on the air
or the desk where you sit again today

Dear Seth
I was going to say the alphabet
is perfect but I think I mean sufficient
which is better
    is enough
In my sleep I did something to my back
and here at 5am I am up
    trying to think
of a word
  that brings nothing else to mind

Dear Seth
We are in the new year now
  In the last days of the old one
the doctor told us hard news
    and my mind excluded
most other thoughts
       so when the idea
to make that funny version of your book cover
came to me
      I was grateful for the visit
And it’s true that almost nothing is better
than the movies
     Philomena       American Hustle
or a series is good
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
On New Year’s Eve a new test told us
we’d all probably be okay
      I did not know
when I began I’d fill these poems
with so much information
      which saturates
my life
      Some people see information
as that which cannot be predicted
      the break
in the pattern
  It is still snowing
I’d like to know how this year
will break me

Dear Seth
I have been thinking
about the department stores
of our previous century
  how they enchanted us
with stacks of televisions broadcasting
novel images of ourselves
      walking through the store
I would wave and jump
I’d never heard of nonchalance
but now there is no place
    that does not see you
and we have learned to act naturally
all the time
      It’s not that we forget
the camera’s there
  It’s that we struggle
to recall anything else

Dear Seth
Chris has a terrible cold
and is still sleeping
    while I awoke
stupidly early once again
      I am dissatisfied
with everything I read
and therefore with myself
Today I think I’ll take down
  the pine wreathes
and garlands
I will finish up shoveling the drive
Tomorrow the baby hits the size
of a banana
      which reminds me
to buy some for Chris
(He is crazy for bananas)
I want them to make him feel well

Dear Seth
Last night we tried to go see Her
but after dinner the snow sent us home
              and here
before dawn I am up thinking of how much
you love the Celtics and Moby Dick
One August we ate
birthday cake in Herman Melville’s barn
        Your stomach
is as weak as your heart is steadfast
Henri Bergson says the comic stems
from a certain absent-mindedness
              At your house
when we would watch a game
I’d amuse myself pretending to forget
there was a ball
    but your understanding
travels broader
and more deeply
         You read the bright screen
as a whale would read the swells
Where I see a general blur you see particular shapes
and this is why the game to you must be called tragic
It is too early to go find regular paper
so I am writing this
    on the back of a letter
from BlueCross BlueShield
No action is required on your part

Heather Christle

Heather Christle is the author of What Is Amazing (Wesleyan University Press, 2012), The Difficult Farm (Octopus Books, 2009), and The Trees The Trees (Octopus Books, 2011), which won the 2012 Believer Poetry Award. Her poems have appeared in publications including Boston Review, Gulf Coast, The New Yorker, and The Best American Poetry. She has taught poetry at Antioch College, Sarah Lawrence College, the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Emory University, where she was the 2009-2011 Poetry Writing Fellow. A native of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, she lives in Yellow Springs, Ohio.