Dearest A,

It’s been weeks since last you wrote.  I read your letter to the soft noise of a Seinfeld rerun, the canned laughter of studio audience members who probably relayed the episode to work colleagues the morning following the taping.  Then, they stopped talking.  My roommate was thumb-mashing the Diet Coke-stuck buttons of an old model cell phone at the time.  Everything is now touch-screened, you know.  Interfaced.  If you cradle an iPhone long enough, its supposed to warm your hands.

Yours,

B

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Dear A,

Billy Collins, I read in a recent interview, said “A poem is the most intimate form of communication, in that it is one person communicating to another person.  Nothing else you read is addressed in such a personal way, except maybe for the letter, but then that’s not something that the whole world is reading.”

What’s weird is that I could swear I’ve heard lines from my letter in the mouths of complete strangers. Well, complete strangers to me.  How long do you know someone before they’re not strange to you anymore?  It’s strange to think of who you’ve been speaking to, strange that I’m not embarrassed.

Should I be?

Write back,

B

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Dear A,

Someone said Elizabeth Bishop was coming to Los Angeles next Thursday.  Then they corrected themselves — “in a way.”  I laughed, and tried to imagine Elizabeth Bishop as a zombie.  She’d maybe sit onstage, crumple and eat each poem after its reading.  Honestly, I don’t think I’d have the heart to jam a wooden stake into Elizabeth Bishop’s brain.  Could you even read for an hour like that without getting sick?

She’d be one hundred years old this year.  I say “she’d be” as though we ever stop being what we are.

Please write,

B

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Hello A,

Bishop, in a letter to a friend, once wrote “I sort of see you surrounded by fine-tooth combs, sandpaper, nail files, pots of varnish, etc. — with heaps of used commas and semicolons hand, and little useless phrases taken out of their contexts and dying all over the floor.”  I wouldn’t know what to say you were surrounded by anymore — a romantic might say you’re surrounded by ocean water, washing bottle caps and the sharp music of pelicans ashore.  Wait, do pelicans sing?

My point is that people write letters all the time.  See?

B

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A,

Space.  Not the clusters-of-stars or orbit space, but space is the reason we write letters, right?  To close space, pull two people closer?  I like to imagine letters bridge a certain chasm we may not normally possess the tools or materials to close.  My hands splinter at the thought of wooden planks, nails, a sledgehammer.  But what about when one of us needs space?  What then?

Or maybe letters are the closest we’ve come to actually touching the departed again, the closest we’ve come to speaking with ghosts.

I think I’m haunted.

B

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