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Published: Thu Oct 15 1981
Salman Toor, Fag Puddle with Candle, Shoe, and Flag (detail), 2022. Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, N.Y. Photo: Farzad Owrang.
Letter to a Niece

for Deborah Hadas

By the end of summer you have a face.
But it’s late at night and you must go in the morning.
That wide grin—then on my shoulder
your hair is sweet from the latest of all those washings.
Calmly enough you breathe there.

Crickets chirp, italicizing silence.
I can say nothing
I haven’t been saying all this time, been living
here with you through two months of hot dark weather.

The fox said “tame me,” then “I shall weep” at parting.
He also taught invisibility
belongs to what’s essential.
With care and patience something grew through summer
from you to me or back again. You go.
Now I shall pad alone in silence to the mailbox.
I need to listen to the brook, I need a Mirabeau Bridge
now I remember again what pain comes after.
The stretching and the punishment of love
only attained at the end—I had forgotten.

Failed partings? Look to dreams for those. The rest
have to be made of what we have been doing,
dreamlike, until the episode is over.
So I remember the buried snake on the island,
bees in the thyme at night, a shooting star,
walks on a pebbled road all paved with moonlight.
Write to me before winter.

See what's inside AGNI 15

Rachel Hadas’s verse translations of Euripides’s two Iphigenia plays are forthcoming in 2018, as is a poetry collection, Poems for Camilla (updated 8/2017)

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