Ann E. Michael

I love letters--reading them, writing them, reading collections of letters by other people. The form feels intimate and immediate, even when the writer has taken pains and written many drafts to get the words just right. Good letters are not so much personal as personality. We write to those we love, those from whom we need a favor, those to whom we owe gratitude, and those who have so angered us we do not trust ourselves to confront the recipient face to face.

And we write to the community, our leaders, our absent, our dead. To god and to the world: messages. Maybe all writing is at heart epistolary, I don't know.




The Way to Ordinary                           

Dear D.,

The year’s been a gyroscope, cumbersome, tremulous.
Spring came and went with barely a mist; dry heat
began way back, in May.

Lettuce bolted, corn barely got started, never grew higher
than my shoulders. I remember how we waded
through its tall green, summers ago, lost ourselves.

I lost you in drought. You sucked up everything.
July was a long, bricked path. Wild raspberries
and blackberries ripened simultaneously, small and hard.

August was a withered skin, a locust shell, rattler’s cloak.
In late September, hurricanes: flood ran across macadam-hard fields,
tree limbs groaned your name, flung themselves down, and wept.

I stayed half-stunned, missing you all through
the ancient new year. My atonement day lay like a rock
in my breast and lasted weeks: forgive me for what I did not do.

Now it is well into October, and still, no frost—
the world’s forgotten how to be ordinary;
your departure unbalanced everything.

How shall I hold me up without you? Who will take my hand,
lead me through grief and into a year of average rainfall,
splendid fruit? I await your answer, with love,


Tender Objects

Dear One, where the hail-strewn loam recovered there are now
three rows of beans, a clump of basil, the marigolds that survived
a quarter-hour of ice, late-planted tomatoes: replacements for
the earlier crop stripped by storm to pocked and blasted stalks.

Hard month, that June—rain, rot, mossy and fetid,
crowned by the ice-whirled funnel that shredded
tree line and woodlot, toppled wires, clipped cables,
whitened the lawn. Wind sheared sky into bulbous clouds.

Sun slanted harshly at the rain’s back. Remember? We sought promise
in the humid light but at the sight of the garden gasped and wept,
our reaction unexpected, almost biblical, keening over the lost
innocents: slender seedlings, wide young leaves, new buds.

Soil, too. What had been carefully raked and cultivated
mired into cold mud. Christ, we moaned, at the ruin of our labors.

A month of storms, a week of warmth, we risked the task again,
sowed for the harvest, marveled at the rebounders, survivors,
things that heal. They heal themselves. Roots twined about
hail hard as marbles we held in our hands. And now, soft rain.



Ann E. Michael’s collection of poetry, Water-Rites, is forthcoming this year from Brick Road Poetry Press.