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Image by Mareks Steins


the madrigal, volume iv

After Two Decades, I Reread Her Remaining Letters

by kyle potvin

“Letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind them.”

-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Three envelopes send out a plea,
              Open me. Reread what I say.
Each is heavy as a birch tree,
              branches weighed down by snow, today
bowed low, remorseful, beside me.

I gently reopen the first:
              short letter on cheery paper,
quaint town on the edge, flowers burst
              open with summer, bright wrapper
of text. (No, this is not the worst.)

Then the second note: this one white
              as death, struck by keys of black type.
Relief: It’s filled with sweet delight
              for me, her loyal friend, lines ripe
with news, everything still right.

But this third note. Is this the one?
              Words etched for years under my skin.
Words that shame and shun and still stun.
              Deserved perhaps. It was my sin
and ink can’t be erased, redone.

My fingers dither with this last.
              I unfold one delicate sheet.
She addresses me dear. She asks
              about my parents. Kind. Upbeat.
She leaves me this rewritten past.

Kyle Potvin’s debut full-length poetry collection is Loosen (Hobblebush Books, 2021). Her chapbook, Sound Travels on Water, won the Jean Pedrick Chapbook Award. She is a two-time finalist for the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award. Poems have appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, Tar River Poetry, Rattle, Ecotone, and The New York Times. Kyle lives on the seacoast of New Hampshire, USA.

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