Dear Marjorie,

I’m on the floor in our spot by the window playing cards with your ghost. I had such nightmares about us last night. Buildings all over the earth were shedding their clothes. It kept raining metal and glass, drywall and bricks, until all that was left was a skeletal world of I-beam steal. I ran like a juke back dodging the falling debris, pausing here and there to try and punch in your number. But the phone kept disintegrating in my hands. I’d stop some frenzied soul and beg them to dial the number for me, but they were like, “Are you nuts? The whole world’s having a seizure.”

Anyway, I drove all the way to Butler yesterday trying to fit a church around this hurt. I sat in the back wearing stained-glass clothes and crying like a baby. I don’t brush my teeth anymore. My soul says no to food, says no to the heavy bag, hockey rink, sweat lodge. To engage in actions that fuel the body forward and thus perpetuate the pain of being?

Our dogs lunge at me like arrowheads and sometimes they get through. They still sit by the window waiting in the late afternoon for you to come home. They cock their ears to a motor’s hum gauging on some higher frequency whether a passing car is yours. I call Bandit Mr. Gray Chin now. What a big tub of love he is. Strong but arthritic. He pays the days after he lopes along next to me when I run our horses.

Mom is dying. She can’t find the bathroom or her bedroom with her almost shark eyes. Sometimes we promenade in baby steps in the sunlight while I sing some Sinatra to her. She beams and hums along, snags some of the words from the memory well from time to time. The other day she saw Roxy and L.J. totting along and asked, “Where did the lovely horses come from?” Then she looked up to see if the sky might be raining more of them, and should she be on the lookout so as not to get crushed by a falling horse. Sometimes she points to your ghost riding on Roxy’s back and waves to you.

I lost myself too far to you. I wake in the middle of the night to an emaciation. With it a forest fire of longing and love that rears in my chest but I have nowhere to put it. I feel like every seed across the earth cracking open come spring. All that power, all those stems being told for so long to go back into their shells and hold their breath. I have no words for the violence of it.

I’m on the floor with a sheet over my bare shoulders and the sun is coming up. The dogs are stretching and yawning. I say to Sparky, “I just don’t want to do it anymore.” Then the horses appear like phantoms out there with their white blooming breath. And that beech we climbed when we were courting. I remember a thick branch holding you. I wanted to be that arm, every arm in that tree. I could feel how the sunlight was made to surround you; could feel how it was pouring out of my chest at that moment. And you didn’t even know it. But then you did.

I had finally learned enough about love’s dance to hold back, but this great mystery kept spilling around the edges of our almost masks until the masks were gone. Then I hung myself from a branch for awhile like ripe fruit. I snapped off the vine and thumped against the ground and you fell with me. After a few moments, down there on the earth, we looked at each other and you didn’t flinch or look away. I could see how something in my nature was acting like sunlight and rain to your deepest heart. It was hitting every inch of your skin. Just then you did something and it totally ambushed me: you laid your hand on my forearm and when you did the world jolted to a halt. I felt the actual sensation of falling somewhere else where no ground could catch me. Then you laid your hand on my forearm and a second earth appeared under my feet.


John Rybicki’s latest collection of poems is When All the World is Old. His poems and essays have appeared in Ecotone, Poetry, Ploughshares, Field, the American Poetry Review, as well as in the Best American Poetry and Pushcart Prize anthologies. He teaches poetry writing in Detroit schools through the InsideOut Literary Arts Project.

Photo by Heather Kresge