A Letter I’ll Never Send
Dear Susan, Dear Friend,
Over a year now you’ve been staying with your son. I miss you. You’re gone
not just to far-off Ohio but to Alzheimer’s land and you can’t come back.
Once a bubbling river of talk and laughter, now a dry stream bed with not much to say.
No return ticket available from that country of lost competencies and memories.
But I believe in bone and tissue, traces reside of what once was, shards of the good times
we shared, so I’ll do some remembering with you, for you.
Remember listening to the Pacific purr as we sat on my sunlit porch, drinking late afternoon wine.
Wendy, the neighbor’s coon cat, often plopped onto your lap for strokes and scratches.
We would plan our next trip to Mount Rainer while recalling details from previous ones:
purple-pink foxgloves climbing steep banks escaping the White River’s rush;
our tents, big canvas bugs at ease below lofty jade green pines; patchworks of blue lupine,
magenta paintbrush, daisies . . . quilting the slopes and meadows; the sacred mountain
inviting us to traipse trails at Sunrise, Paradise, Glacier Basin, the Grove of the Patriarchs . . .
Remember the invasion at Sol Duc campground. While we were dreaming
like the happy dead all tent-cozy and contented, a mouse built her house
in your car trunk but skedaddled at our dismayed discovery shouts
accompanied by a flurry of sticks and straw as we tossed her home.
The whole brouhaha replayed the next day.
Remember lollygagging through lilac-loaded Montana.
We ventured into a fantastical Flat Lake forest where
antlered aliens disguised as deer trotted by, obviously stealing treasure from secret places.
They waved friendly hooves before reverting back to brush: that’s the story we told ourselves.
Remember that Ozette Triangle night. A full moon, white wine, campfire sparks
like constellations, wind lullabies, the quiet so wild and free
your refrained from repeating your decrepit knock-knock jokes
and I kept myself from reciting my boisterous version of “Invictus.”
So many minutes, hours, days, months, years of good memories;
bad ones I filed away a folder label “forget.”
Before this letter turns into a heavy tome and tears slop over all the pages,
I’ll stop scribbling, stop spelling back those precious together times.
When I’ve phoned, you seem to recognize who I am but you mumble
you have to write down my name so you can remember who called,
and you always add, Damn it all to hell!
Every single one of my pens is hiding again.
I miss you much.
Goodbye, dear Susan.
So long, dear friend.
Farewell, dearly beloved.
by Carol R. Sunde
Editor’s Note: Sometimes grief arrives before you expect it to, as this epistolary poem reminds us. Rich imagery fills in enough of a life to understand the loss, as does the frustrated exclamation at the end.