Back to Issue Forty-One

Writing to You


Again, I woke up before daybreak
wanting to write from my dark

to your dark; it is possible
I dreamed again of the horseback courier

whose words turn all night in his chest
or satchel—

what chisels itself into shape
as he nears the stone-eyed Apollo

above the city gates. Or I dreamed
of the old epistolaries: burning their candle

past dusk, each word increasing
in tincture, import

as the flame dies down. I am not sure.
All I know is that here

it is August. Already the fall webworm is busy
weaving its bridal tombs

in the poplars. My hair grows long,
it will gray & I worry how soon

the first sunlit arrows will shoot past
the dogwoods & into the bedroom window, the one

facing east. Again, I will not have written to you.
Look, even now—

I’ve just written this line & stopped
to put on the kettle. Already day

unrobes its pale torso & it is the way
the night rider’s horse tends to water:

veined neck leaning toward what
a moment ago, could only be supposed.

All I can do is suppose where you are,
this morning, I mean. This hardly-

mauve minute. When I think of you
it is always your sunburn-red hair

which comes first. It is always three weeks
before the war that would call

both our brothers. Your body not yet
at war with itself, we’d never

horsebacked so close to the border,
past the shirtless men who fish

along the Banias, past the boys
teaching each other to burn

the glochids off prickly pears.
How is it that all I’ve been teaching myself

is to hold what punctures and burns
at a distance, that we must canter through hurt

guardedly & on our own? On our way
back from the horse ranch

your car broke down. Remember how we swerved
into the ditch, how it burst

with wildflowers?
The engine stopped & our girl bodies started

shaking with fright & fury,
then laughter: how summer, as if it knew

all we were going to lose—had won us
this unwritten time.





The first time I went down on a woman
I thought I invented it. I wanted to patent it,
you said after you left the religion, stepped

on the night train from Schopfloch to East Berlin—
in your black plastic bag you swaddled a bottle
of Fanta, the braided butt of day-old

raisin bread. Your one holy possession:
a German-English dictionary
which you promised to one day return

because you were raised to take care best
of what is not yours alone. You didn’t say
if the hole in the sheet was a myth when I asked,

or if it’s true that we love more intently, wholly
after having kept time-honored distance, from a woman
or god— you didn’t say

but I understood both the sheet
& yarmulke were reminders that love works
like any language: we utter

what we can’t reach but spend our lives
reaching for. I want to ring the lone bell
in the back of your throat, you’d tell her

as if you were climbing
the blue-domed church in Santorini on the hottest day,
thumbing the cool caper buds, tomatoes

yellow & green on their vines—what grows wild
after long desolation. I want to ring the lone bell
in the back of your throat, you’d tell her

suspecting, it isn’t the chiming we want
but the echo—what shapeshifts & stuns, then stays
burning through us.


Avia Tadmor was born in Jerusalem. She holds an MFA in poetry and literary translation from Columbia University and a BA from Harvard University. Her poetry received support from Yaddo, the Rona Jaffe Foundation/Bread Loaf Writers’ Workshop Series, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Avia’s poems appeared or are forthcoming in The New Republic, New England Review, Mississippi Review, and elsewhere. Avia is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Expository Writing Program at New York University.

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