Home > Poetry > Letter
Published: Mon Oct 15 2001
Eva Lundsager, Were now like (detail), 2021, oil on canvas

At the post office, I dash a note to a friend,
tell her I’ve just moved in, gotten settled, that

I’m now rushing off on an errand—except
that I write errant, a slip between letters,

each with an upright backbone anchoring it
to the page. One has with it the fullness

of possibility, a shape almost like the O
my friend’s mouth will make when she sees

my letter in her box; the other, a mark that crosses
like the flat line of your death, the symbol

over the church house door, the ashes on your forehead
some Wednesday I barely remember.

What was I saying? I had to cross the word out,
start again, explain what I know best

because of the way you left me: how suddenly
a simple errand, a letter—everything—can go wrong.

See what's inside AGNI 54

Natasha Trethewey was the U.S. poet laureate from 2012 to 2014. She is the author of five books, including Native Guard (Houghton Mifflin, 2006), which won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. She directs the creative writing program at Emory University. (updated 2/2017)

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