“Love Letter After the Fact” by Jennifer Malesich

Jennifer Malesich


Out here I thought the wind would be kind to us.
Would offer some kind of resolution, a new direction north.
New stars to see by on clear nights when the temperature
drops and we find each other without maps. You’ll be surprised
that I’ve started enjoying the taste of beer. Drink it straight
from the draft on nights when I’m by myself in a bar thinking
about the best way to get back to the poems in my head. Mostly I think
of God on Godly days, especially now since the smoke has cleared.
The sunsets aren’t as spectacular, but we can see the mountains
without the mask of fires. As though we are closer to understanding
the spaciousness of His work. God is like the town on a map
but no roads to it are shown. Though we find a way to get to it,
eventually, hauling our materials overland, setting up a base camp,
foraging enough food to last through winter. At first we hate the place,
then finally fall in love with it and dwell in its riches. There’s a clear stream
for fishing and you learn to catch trout with your bare hands.
I clean the fish like miracles and feed you by a fire that lights up your face.
But you have decided to let silence rule. Our potential town on a map
remains as deserted as Bannack, that old gold town. You’re right across
my zip code on Madison Street living at an altitude unknown to you.
I imagine you haunting book stores, reading for hours alone, maybe finding
a new author. I wonder what you want. The heat and humidity
of Hinds County? The Methodist church where we lit candles
on Christmas Eve? We find God in many ways, in strange places, on roads
without a tangible end. But we keep going like lonely explorers set on
different compasses to the North Pole guided by the pull of old stars.
What we find is the sun that never sets, the longest summer days,
the small warmth of a fire that cooks our buffalo burgers on the snow plain.
Until we found it, no outsider has ever seen it. Then we come to believe.
Isn’t that the first and last dream, the possibility before winter, to live
for a moment in that light that doesn’t end? To look at each other across
the dimensions of the fire and know what burns inside? I’m out wandering,
looking for old stars. I will write more forever though only poetry
and therefore always failure.

from Rattle #30, Winter 2008
Tribute to Cowboy & Western Poetry

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