The Letter

In the bottom drawer of my desk I come across a letter that first arrived twenty-six years ago.
Tomas Tranströmer, “Answers to Letters”

I discover the envelope beneath the mattress.
Who knows how long it has been there?
As I unfold it and read it slowly, the rainlight

enters the window and my body,
light soft as gray linen, blurring the present.
Time is a thread wound around a spool

as if the past is in the room
only inches away from the present.
Would life have been different if I had answered?

It delivers its old love-words to me again —
like waves sprawling over each other to reach the shore,
or deer bounding across the road on a fall morning —

as though I have been waiting for them a long time,
though in truth, I have gone on with my life,
other loves woven and torn, long swaths of solitude.

Did the night it was written hum
with the voices of cicadas, a marble moon?
Did the lover search the sky for an answer?

If I were to send back a letter now, I would write it
to a man who may not even be alive,
to an address I had forgotten,

a shabby rooming house, one of many in the west end
of the city, that one room with a green light bulb
and yellowed shades pulled down to shut out the light.

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