Letter (8) — You F*cking Died

Photo by Marcel Ardivan on Unsplash

To The Brother More Brother Than My Brother:

You weren’t supposed to fucking die.
I miss you. 

We hadn’t talked since the day my dad died. Why is that? 

And then you died. You fucking died.
And I had so much still to say.
And I really needed to hear your laugh.
And I really needed a hug, but you fucking died. 

And I wanted to go with you. 
Some days I still want to go with you. 

We can be six year olds climbing old planted Christmas trees again. 

You can be the Luke Skywalker to my Chewbacca —
which isn’t the right combination of characters,
but our cast of tree climbing cohorts are all still here. 

They have fulfilling lives. 
They are happy. 
Social media says they are happy. 
They don’t want to go yet. 

You were happy. 
In the end.
After all the shit.
With your simple life, you were happy. 

I haven’t been happy since 1992.

I cowered from your contentment.
Even though I missed you, I recoiled.
I’m sorry. 

It hurts.
You weren’t supposed to fucking die.

Letter (7) — The Poe Inquisition

Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash

To Mr. Deep Freeze:

It all began with the swing of a pendulum. 

To this day, I do not know if Edgar Allan Poe falls within the parameters of a normal American sixth grade curriculum. It became apparent quite quickly that gothic tales of horror were not approved by the missionary parents who enrolled their students in the deeply conservative, faith-based owned and operated academy in which I was student and you were teacher. 

What I remember most about sixth grade is reading — a lot of reading. We read individually. We read in groups. We read aloud. You were my first teacher, there in the mid-1980s, to recognize and address that students of the same age are not all reading on the same level — not merely the words themselves, but the comprehension of those words. 

Combined with my parents, who never limited my reading… 

Adult Beth: You know there was a lot of sex and violence in that Wagons West series you let me read as a kid, right? 

Librarian Mom: Yes, but there was a lot of history in there too.

… you recognized that for me to grow, I (and 2-3 fellow classmates) needed more challenging reading options than whatever we were supposed to be assigned. 

You also enjoyed reading aloud to the class, introducing new-to-us authors and genres. 

Enter Poe.

Enter, again, Librarian Mom — deeply conservative yet simultaneously loath to condone censorship. 

I only know of the Poe Inquisition because the other parents wanted Librarian Mom to be their champion — and she declined. 

I do not know the extent of the protest or how wide a spread the kerfuffle had on campus.
I do not know which of my classmates went to a parent in… fear… horror… disgust… or whatever emotion was stirred in their sheltered souls. 

I do know the pontifical pendulum of censorship missed your neck that year. 

“The Inquisition was in the hands of its enemies.”

You finished reading “The Pit and the Pendulum” aloud to us and I loved every word.

Poe was my gateway drug into the deeper realm of gothic classics by Shelley, Stoker, Radcliffe, Stevenson, Wilde, du Maurier, the Brontës and more.

Beyond Poe, you were the unconventional teacher in an environment that praised convention and evangelicalism over education and acceptance. You were the catalyst of my literary renaissance.

I thank you. 

PS – Apologies for the nickname. Originality was lacking at age 11 and we were very much into derogatory homonymistic (I’m going to make that a word.) monikers. Our fourth grade teacher was known as Miss Sour. Same premise. We’re adults now and I respect your privacy. 

Letter (6) — We That Never Was Us

Image by Layers on Pixabay

“O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?”
— William Butler Yeats, Among School Children

To Him:

Why do we dance this charade?

Words veiled in blinding plumage.
The peacock’s narcissistic strut.

Tapping innuendo, one feather coerced.
Then two.
A false confidence masquerade.

You foreshadow covenants.
I feign indifference.

We tease the unknown.

I curtsy.
Eyes seduce behind veil of steel.

You bow.
Hand extended in burning anticipation.

We touch. Fire to Ice.

I melt.
You mock.

We pause.

Footsteps echo far.
Illumination dims.
I waltz alone behind the curtain.

We that never was Us deteriorates in darkness.

Note: This letter was originally published August 16, 2020 on Medium. In 2020, I migrated that writing content to my personal webpage. The poem is a tweaked version of an original written a few years ago. The more contemplation I gave in writing a full letter to Him, the more I realized these words say all I need to say.

Letter (1) — Message in a Bottle

Photo by Ali Kais on Unsplash

To the Globe at Large and Anyone Who May Stumble Into this Place:

Only half my life ago, we would not have met.

I could have reached one of you, I suppose, by a telephone call made on a device with a cord coming from the wall that was designed strictly for the purpose of verbal communication. Perhaps some scribblings on paper rolled up inside a glass bottle and abandoned to the ravishes of the sea would have found its way to a curious reader. Maybe a mad publisher would have found a collection of unwritten letters mildly fascinating — but that was another place in my life and certainly a different time.

Today, with just a few clicks, I can throw the entirety of my past into the sea of cyberspace for the whole future to find — and here you have found me. Welcome.

What you have happened upon is essentially a memoir comprised of letters I should have written — or it will become one.

There was a time when I wrote a damn fine letter, but the internet and my adulthood aged together. Handwriting gave way to email. Chat rooms morphed into social media. Blogging rose and fell and rose and fell as the world breathed in the same digital space. Instead of sharing our stories with ink and stationery stored in a hat box for generations to find yellowed with memories, we hide behind an easily editable digital glare.

I have been here with you since the beginning — renewing friendships and finding common passions. For all our connections, however, we seem to be drifting further apart. I, for one, stopped writing letters. I cannot entirely blame the internet. My life became quite trying and I allowed myself to be distracted. Still, there are words I must write and letters I need to send. It is far too late for stamps and envelopes and absolutions, but write I will.

I don’t know when or from where you are joining my journey, but know that it is a finite one. This is a project with purpose. Forty-nine letters will be written and that will be the end.

If you arrived at the beginning then much waiting is ahead of you. Come back. That is why we have bookmarks.

Did you land here somewhere in the middle? Feel free to bounce around at your will.

You stragglers at the end may have it better than the rest. The unwritten will be written and you can linger or leave at your leisure.

From whenever and wherever you are reading my letters, my hope is that you find meaning in at least one. Imaginably, you are harboring your words as I once did or you are yearning to absorb them from someone who is not me. Borrow them if you must — especially if healing is what you seek. For in writing these words, I am healed.

Now I toss this message into the vast void of the information superhighway, a place as strange, beautiful, and unyielding as the undiscovered depths of the sea. If it survives — if it winds up on your shoreline — please toss it back in after reading.

Note: The letter above was originally published on September 15, 2018 via Medium. I have since moved all content here.