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Today I Burned Your Letters

September 17, 2008 by · 9 comments

Katherine Van Hook Gulley

Photo: young_einstein

Today I burned your letters,
I lit the fireplace with a box of matches I picked up at an old country store,
The letters smelled of musk perfume and all encompassing fragrances of time.

They came in different colors,
some white with newness some yellow with time,
Each with a burning of its own.
I could feel your heart beat in each one.
And I remembered the beat of my heart as I read them
For the first time.

I read them first, beginning where all things should begin.
They unfolded in my fingers, fragile as tissue,
Yet their fold was unyielding, as if time had sealed them.

Lighthearted and happy was the cadence of your words, dressed in loops of felicity,
Spread out across the paper in swirling strokes like boundless wings of eagles.

You spoke of old times, happy times, when as children found it enough to look into each other’s eyes,
Eyes that saw the same world in the same way.

The next letters were on fine cream paper with a watermark I did not recognize.

I envisioned you making the purchase on some side street of New York, rain pouring as you raised your voice against the noise.

You would have smiled at the cashier girl, making her wonder what words, what wonderful words would be written on the paper she placed in your young strong hand.

No doubt the sting of her own heart would be the hope of seeing you in all your mystery again.

The letters read that life was treating you well.
Nothing was missing and you were on top of the world.
The strength of …horses drove your words like fire,
And I felt small and lost in your glory.
Still I read of all your conquests and achievements,
As if they were my own. So far apart, we could no longer simply look into each other’s eyes.

Still I could close my eyes and imagine your world of street cars and high buildings,
Where the sun sat closer than country eyes like mine had ever seen.
Your black hair against the backdrop of a corporate sky as you blazed down the street, an enigma to passersby.

I put them in the fire and watched as they disappeared.

Then came the pack on gold-lidded stationary so delicate, so refined, I knew they had to come from a man evolved.
I remember sealing in a manila envelope and stashing them in the attic, where I put all my personal treasures. Jewels on fine paper, words too precious to share that were written in silky ink.

Your penmanship had the mark of a man with strong bold strokes and peaking letters.
A sexual feeling of power rose in each word, and how each word melting within the next gave me the deepest longing to be with you.

I imagined you had not chosen this stationary; on the contrary, it was chosen for you to represent some image you and they wanted to convey.
I imagined how busy you must be in your corporate life full of exciting people, and I was honored that you remembered at all.

I put them in the fire and watched as they disappeared.

A metamorphic blend of class and morality I found in your next letters.
The paper thicker once again, but engraved with your own name in small and humble letters.

Your words had become intemperate, and you seemed to hold something or someone else responsible for all the things that had gone right in your life.
A humble part of you had emerged an Aquarius Pegasus of sorts, and I gulped back the tears to read your declaration that there was a God.

A spiritual connection beyond any physical pleasure rose in me.
And I imagined you in St. Michael’s church on your knees, temples graying among the strong black locks of hair, and how humble yet even stronger you must appear. There among the benches of cherry wood, the ladies of the midnight mass must have wondered on what a man you were.

I put them in the fire and watched as they disappeared.

Then there were no letters, no letters in April when the flowers bloom, no letters in autumn when the leaves turn into a collage of heavenly display.
No letters when the Christmas bells sing of peace, forgiveness and hope.

The last letter on plain note paper, the ravels of the tablet still dangling loosely alone the edges. Clearly a last minute note to someone already forgotten, and no longer important enough in your life for delicate stationary.

The writing was nearly unrecognizable to my eyes in sharp penmanship of anger and despair. The words unbearable to my heart became a convenient blur for a heart that could not bear it.

The self assurance was gone and only bitterness remained. The one you blessed you blamed,
The one you loved you loathed.

I imagined you graying and walking slower now, with your head always down, not seeing the beauty around you. People passing by, a glance, a look, a thought of what could weigh so heavy on a man.

I put them in the fire and watched as they disappeared.

One final letter in a penmanship I could not distinguish. On the legal stationary the word bequeath appeared in my sight as bold and giant font, words like attorney, coroner, and service will be held stifled me and sucked the life force from me.

And so today, my love, I burn your letters, in hopes of burning your memory. In hope of not dying with you…at least not today.

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