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Brian Cochran

Dear Letter

Dear Letter

Thank you for your brave letter. I've slept with it two nights, variously treasuring, wrinkling and holding it...
Although you haven't written, I am still holding it, as you can see.

My friend the letter S. once read Camus' The Stranger on a plane returning from Europe. Later, she couldn't remember the name of the book, but told me how she had lost her ground, reading it. How she felt as if the desert light from Camus had gone right through her, as if she wasn't there. Somewhere in her feelings I remembered the book.

She wanted to know if I thought she would be ok. 

I don't know, S., I hold your wrinkled, brave letter, too.

As if I were myself transparent. The truth is, the poem is not addressed to the letter S. Dear Letter, truth is, I have not lost your brave letter, though it was difficult to read and you haven't written it.

One theory is we do not write letters anymore because letters require a sense of absence. In the same way that love requires a sense of loss to be full, the written word sealed in an envelope makes sense of the world as physical space, traversed by foot or hoof, wheel or wing, to bring the actual object, in an unsure and distant future, into the hands of the deared one, as if to stain the other with ink, indelibly. Most art tries to do this, but letters, as correspondence, enact it physically across space and time. 

I read The Stranger, twice, in college. But I didn't get it, not really, till S. told me the story of a nameless book she had read on the flight from Europe. About losing her ground. Somewhere in her feelings I understood the book.  

If time is a large room, and the objects in it are always present, then we move through time to be present to ourselves. To the objects in us. Things do not connect, as Jack Spicer once wrote, they correspond.

Dear Letter, I am writing you here to hold and wrinkle. Somewhere in your feelings I understand the book. 

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Brian Cochran lives and writes in St. Louis, Missouri, a few miles south of where the Missouri and Mississippi rivers collide.  His poems have appeared in Ninth Letter, Denver Quarterly, Cimarron Review, River Styx and other journals. He was a Millay Colony of the Arts Fellow and received a grant from the Vermont Studio Center this past year. 


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