Every Day Is A Love Letter

A poem, with audio.

I’ve been working this week on ordering and editing a lot of recent poems and hope to release them as a self-published book soon. It’s more or less an experiment to learn the process, since I’ve never attempted to self-publish.

This morning I decided to read one poem out loud – simply recording on my phone – to see how it felt. This poem, titled “Every Day Is A Love Letter,” is adapted from a short essay by the same name I published on Medium in February. Below is the text of the poem. I hope you enjoy it.

Every Day Is A Love Letter
You once wrote me a love letter
postmarked the day you left
for an ill-advised trip to China
I did not want to accompany you on.
Your pinched handwriting
filled pages of yellow ledger paper,
not a single error,
no scratched-out words,
for you stayed up all night
writing it, or re-writing it,
I could tell.
I still have it, your yellow letter,
envelope and all –
of course I do,
in the manila folder
with all my important documents:
birth certificate,
social security card,
our marriage license.
It was the only paper letter
you wrote to me,
but it was the only one
that needed to be written,
to tell me you needed me,
in case something happened
on your China trip
so I would have a goodbye from you
to take out
and unfold
and hold in my hands.
I thought of you
on all those weeks
you were in the rural interior of China
backpacking through farm country
or industrial cities
without tourist pretensions,
wondering why you had gone
without me,
without a plan,
as if the only plan
was escape
to see if you really wanted
to say goodbye.
I watched the weather reports
from places I had never heard of,
and learned the people there
endured the same winter as me,
and you
my love
who promised always
to keep my feet warm
were there with them,
shivering unprepared
in a light jacket.
When you stole sleep
on a bench in a train station,
I was here waiting for you
reading your yellow letter,
looking at the snow,
willing myself closer to you.
I never wrote you back,
though I thought many times
of sitting down with pen and paper.
Nothing I could write would do
justice to your ledger-lined vows –
I would write flatfooted
undeliverable greetings
in answer to your goodbyes.
You came back to me
sharp shouldered with hunger
so tired you cried
and I held you like a mother
and fed you rolls with honey
and apologized for no reason
other than for staying behind,
leaving you alone
to leave me.
In the time we have
I make every day
a love letter to you –
each kiss hello-goodbye,
every caress of your tired head,
my unfunny jokes to provoke
your world-weary smile,
quiet door closings
to help you sleep
and recover from this life.
Every clean glass of water
at your bedside table,
each honeyed roll,
my clumsy struggles
to give your little son
the same haircut as you.
Walking beside you my life
is a yellow love letter
holding your hand,
the way you wished
I had done with you in China.
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