Invisible Letters

Invisible Letters
by Theodora Goss

Sometimes I write you letters in my head.
I fill my pen with imaginary ink,
go to my desk and pull out a sheet of paper
as thin and translucent as dreams. I sit at the table,
think for a minute, then being to write.

About my day, about how the clouds gathered
like a group of nuns in gray habits and hid the sky.
About how I heard children’s far-off laughter
in a playground, and then the pattering of rain
on my umbrella as I walked to the university,
where I taught my classes dutifully and well,
doing the task I was assigned, but longing
for something more, something beyond this city.
About how I was feeling angry, desperate,
then saw, beside the path through a wooded park,
the first of the snowdrops pushing their green spears
through last year’s leaf-mold, and realized it was spring.
Sometimes I tell you about the future I hope for:
a small house with a garden, a shallow pond
where frogs hide under the lily pads, a cat
to watch the fish. In the mornings, birdsong,
sunlight filtering through lace curtains, the smell
of coffee. Of course, a library filled with books,
including the ones I’ve written, the ones I’ll write.
Sometimes I tell you about my deepest fears,
of death and the dark night, but not too often.
I don’t want to bore even the ghost of you
that exists in my head, as delicate as tissue paper
so light shines through it, and it casts no shadow.

The you that is not mine, that is outside me,
with bulk and weight, will never receive these letters.
There is no postman who can carry them,
no pigeon that can find its way back to you
with a scroll fastened to its ankle.
Instead, they will fall apart like confetti and scatter
on a wind that is no more real than they are.

(The image is Writing the Letter by Haynes King.)

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A Storm

A Storm
by Theodora Goss

The willow is dancing, is dancing in earnest,
above the ripped surface the round lake displays,
unlike the wide privets that stand in fast harness,
responding to motions the wild wind conveys,
while the stones remain steady in silent arrays.

Oh, watch her green mane: it is rousing and soaring.
The lake-surface rises and flings out its hands
and grasps at her tendrils, while swift winds are roaring
and scattering rain in successive sharp strands,
as the stones stand immune from their urgent demands.

(The image is The Seine near Vetheuil, Stormy Weather by Claude Monet.)

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The Willow’s Story

The Willow’s Story
by Theodora Goss

The willow was once a bride, and dressed herself in white,
and veiled herself with laces, and blossoms filled her hair,
but her love he rode for London in the middle of the night,
galloping by the churchyard, and left her waiting there.

She wandered by the river, her eyes grown dull and wild,
her satin gown gone ragged, her white feet bruised and bare,
and never spoke nor halted, but went as thought beguiled
by fairer visions than appeared in common air.

She threw a bunch of posies her fingers did not hold,
she turned to lift a veil the wind would never stir,
and bowed and smiled, then danced about the rain-drenched wold
in invisible arms, and kissed someone not there.

At last, the story is told, they changed her into a tree,
they being whatever gods possess both pity and power,
so on she silently dances, according to decree,
with the wind for her bridegroom, and the perching birds her dower.

(The image is Woman Sitting Under the Willows by Claude Monet.)

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Me and the Moon

Me and the Moon
by Theodora Goss

And then there is the part of me that turns away,
that says this is too much, this has gone on too long,
the part that wants the silence after the song.

That part has seen so much and has no wish
to see it all again, the long uncertain
goodbye, the tearful nights, the final kiss
it did not know was final until after
the falling of a curtain,
the bow before an audience of one
that became none.

The moon and I are sisters — she has a bright
side of her face turned earthward, as I have mine,
and then there is the dark side, pocked and scarred
by asteroids, turned toward the infinite darkness
of space, always away —
You have been bathed in moonshine.
But that other part of me, with its other face,
is turned away, and its eyes
are the eyes of a woman who is perpetually leaving.

(The image is by Wladyslaw Theodor Benda.)

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Poetry, Damn It

Poetry, Damn It
by Theodora Goss

Sometimes a poem won’t do
what you want it to.

(The image is Woman Writing by Pierre Bonnard.)

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The Country of Myself

The Country of Myself
by Theodora Goss

There are days
on which I return to the country of myself
and close the borders.

I order the trains to stop running, and ground
the airplanes. Barriers are erected at the checkpoints.
There are no cars on the roads, and the booths
where the guards usually sit are deserted.
No one goes in or out.

At the embassy,
no passports are stamped, no visas
are issued. In the banks,
you cannot exchange currency.
All the post offices are shuttered.
Even the telephone lines
go silent.

Don’t try to walk over the mountains,
thinking there are no boundaries
in the pine forests, thinking you can wade
through the rivers or clamber over the rocks.
My troops are on patrol, they have eyes
that can see in the dark.
Their dogs can smell your footsteps
on water. Not even birds
fly over the invisible lines
that exist on my map.
The rain hesitates
to blow across them.

Perhaps someday I’ll decide to reopen
the borders again, allow clouds to float across the sky
without a lengthy interrogation. Allow the moon
to shine down without the danger of catching
its beams on barbed wire.

Perhaps someday I’ll permit even you
to enter.

(The image is Young Girl with a Vase by Berthe Morisot.)

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Sun and Moon

Sun and Moon
by Theodora Goss

Sometimes you forget
that you are magical. Sometimes
you forget that the moon
keeps her face turned earthward just
so she can watch over you —
she is so jealous of the sun,
who is allowed to play all day in your hair.
And why should she not be?

I cannot fault her, scarred
from floating alone above the firmament,
vulnerable to accident and time,
shining in the darkness. I cannot envy
the nights she spends looking down at you, sleeping
as though you were another Endymion.

But her sister the sun,
who walks beside you through the city streets
dressed in yellow, running her fingers over geraniums
in the window boxes, over the stone lions
perched on bridges spanning a river green as glass,
who leaves the red imprint of her lips on your forehead,
whom you smile at on summer mornings —
yes, her I envy.

(The images is a drawing by Simeon Solomon.)

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