“The Letter from James Foley” by Lynne Knight

Lynne Knight

THE LETTER FROM JAMES FOLEY

after Melissa Bloch’s NPR interview with Diane Foley, August 28, 2014

Sometimes in the morning, sometimes at night
he spoke the letter slowly,
the same words in the same order,
a living testament

He spoke the letter slowly
while his friend Daniel memorized
a living testament
from the desert of captivity

While his friend Daniel memorized
every word, every detail
from the desert of captivity
the mother and father waited and waited to hear—

every word, every detail
would come as a gift
the mother and father waited and waited to hear—
something, anything

would come as a gift
from the son they hadn’t wanted to go back to Syria—
something, anything—
last words

from the son they hadn’t wanted to go back to Syria,
the only words he could offer,
last words,
over and over … In the dark cell, the same words,

the only words he could offer,
this litany of all he loved,
over and over, in the dark cell, the same words
so they might bring him back as if from the dead—

this litany of all he loved,
the same words in the same order
so they might bring him back as if from the dead
sometimes in the morning, sometimes at night

Poets Respond
August 31, 2014

[download audio]

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Lynne Knight: “Hearing Diane Foley speak of the letter from her son that his friend Daniel memorized to bring out of captivity and ‘deliver’ to her, I thought she herself must have the letter by heart now. In responding to her gratitude for this unexpected gift (her word), a pantoum seemed the right form to use, given its repetitions and its ending that returns to the beginning.” (website)