This letter begins with a blinded god, his golden mask.
Someone is drowning in the dark. Someone is speaking as a ghost.
When the language is private, I recover an image: wet rock, a red canyon.
When spoken, you appear as the girl with her bare, white shoulders.
This letter begins as a sound from a king's mouth or his globe.
You stand before another cave and listen for the echo.
A heart of string hangs from a map on the wall.
It marks the spot where you will enter. It marks this new kingdom.
This letter begins with locusts and wild honey.
It feeds the mouth of the hermit. He is clothed
in a thousand little words like this. It is a murmur. It is a state.
But it will fade as you fade. It is not the same as pain.
This letter begins as something once held as belief
like water or the fossilized bones of a fish.
This letter begins not as a fathom but a gate that swings open or shut.
There was never a horse, its head bending low to drink.
Dear reader, our stories might keep us satisfied,
but we must pause at each sacred, categorical vow.
I would never break your heart or say anything
to embarrass you. We will listen to each other
because we must cooperate with the news of the world.
We could gather in public squares and sing this as an anthem.
Dear reader, we were lonely, and became characters
in the dark, like flowers crawling up a wall.
We’re more than our sentence. We’re more
than this mouthful of air. If you’re telling me
there are rivers moving between us, I will believe you.
We fill the gaps with what we think should happen.
You spoke of uncertainty as if it were a nest. You gave me
its singular unguarded beauty. It was a gold cup. It was a lake
that I could drink or drown in. You caught me as I was looking,
as if I were looking at a crowd gathering on our shores.
They were speaking your name. I stuttered, and it startled
your sense of home. When we left, the scene darkened.
Is it enough to sing about this? Enough to say what we kept?
In another sentence, a machine replaces the word green for darling,
but this is the story of the lake and cup. I am in it as someone speaking.
You are like the green curtains that open or close.
I've written this letter before. The first time
nothing was moving. You were waiting in another house.
It was made of stone, you said. The yard was dark.
In the other letter, I circled every word for home,
and then rewrote it as directions to another neighborhood.
I described laughter from across the harbor.
This time there are no imaginary cities of wire and ash.
This time it will unsettle at the bottom as if it were a river,
and I were of water and you were on the shore.
This will be the ghost of a ship. It will carry only air, like a bubble.
Your hands will never trace its wreck. You will think
of what to say but will never say it. You will shrink into a sentence.
This will be a wellspring filled with lungs. The walls
around them will crumble, and dust motes will gather above.
This will mean something like sunlight, or moths flickering.
You said our days were like keen eyes watching a small, brittle yard.
This was not an omen, but there are other words for "keep."
Think of all those books of ancient weather, illustrated with characters
and their little red caps, hawks on their arms, and all the gestures
we can only take as private, like a girl leaning against a fence, a boy
tugging at someone’s sleeve.
You said this with your head in your hands.
Someone else would give you a cup for salt or water.
When you say goodbye, you should leave these things behind.
Jonathan Minton lives in central West Virginia, where he is an Associate Professor of English at Glenville State College. His books include *Technical Notes for Bird Government* (Telemetry Press, 2018), *In Gesture* (Dyad Press, 2009), and *Lost Languages* (Long Leaf Press, 1999). His poetry has appeared in the journals *Ecolinguistics*, *Conotation Press*, *Asheville Poetry Review*,
*Coconut*, *Eratio*, *Columbia Poetry Review*, *Reconfigurations*, *Free Verse*, *Trillium*, and elsewhere. His poetry has also appeared in the anthologies *Oh One Arrow* (Flim Forum Press), *Poems for Peace* (Dyad Press), and *Crazed by the Sun* (Cyberwit Press). He edits the journal *Word For/Word* (www.wordforword.info).