It does, and I though I am no longer little I still post secret letters to strangers.
I am sorry that this one– although not secret– comes so late.
This week I sent someone I do not know two silver-clasped threads of silk. One was red, and one was white, and in return she sent me a poem. It was titled Love Sorrow.
It was not hers, but it was hers, and now I am holding it too. I am not sure what to do with it.
When I was a very little girl my mother read aloud to me the stories of John Irving’s strange and complicated families; when I was a little older, I read their familiar pages myself. I remember that similar inimitable line from Hotel New Hampshire: Sorrow floats.
Sorrow, in Irving’s novel, was not the little girl of Oliver’s poem, but rather the Berry family’s black lab, whom they’d had a taxidermist stuff upon dying; the line refers to the plane crash that killed Mary Berry and her youngest son, among the wreckage of which the glass-eyed body of the long-dead Sorrow buoyed.
You wrote in your letter of suicide, and of the nets and fences that prevent it in Toyko; you wrote of the fuck-you anti-dance of the West; you wrote of sadness, too. But what shape does your sorrow take?
(There is no need to answer; I would not know how to respond.)
On my desk a cat– she has been living with us for months; she is still cat– is half-purring and half-growling through the heart she has dragged close to me. Writing is nothing without blood.
This week has been a week of flights and waiting (yes, the two are synonymous) and family and celebration and Christmas. This week melted like snow into the warmth of ritual and reunion, and I feel I am still savoring it all.
We arrived home this evening, to a city of licking rain and fog from plains of whited ice and astringent cold, and though the journey was wonderful the sensation of casting one’s poor exhausted body into the placid security of a familiar home has a sweetness no strangeness can touch. Home has its own delights, and its grateful embrace of clumsily-packed luggage and mud-slung coats is gentler and more perfect than that of even the most considered hotel. (Strange that I’d never considered–nor imagined–myself competent in the strange art of home-making; strange to realize that despite myself the patient gods of the hearth have elected to knit a place for me here.)
Is this year almost over? I am not sure whether to race in exhausted relief toward the next, or to brace myself for another hurricane of expectation, or to shut my eyes and turn around and fall happily backwards into a snow-angel of beauty and trust and unfathomable chill. It is funny to think that try as I might, I might be capable only of all three.