Letter to Violi from Prospect Heights
This week the wind picked up something crazy,
ripped inside my coat on Sixth Ave. I got so ticked
I growled, fuck you wind! Some old women
whirled around, looked at me with prim mouths.
As ever, Paul, I offend. Now it’s night on Vanderbilt
and the café plays Ella Fitzgerald. She brings some relief,
as does this steaming pile of polenta, chevre,
ratatouille. No drink at the moment, though.
When I woke up this afternoon it was lousy.
Lips cracked and a memory of yowling at the bar
about quitting. I struggle a bit of late.
Last winter, smoking out of Ali’s wide windows
on the Bronx, you made that angry eagle face,
said what really pisses you off is when the good
ones see how hard it is and quit. I think
about the Marines again, but I confess
that has a dark origin. The get-fried-in-a-tank place.
That is not the poetry place. Besides, that we’re still
at war is idiotic. Hughes writes a massive piece
about his brother over there – he’s got this line about a .50 cal
taking off an eleven year-old’s leg. I can’t stop seeing
my littlest brother: bright blonde hair, bleeding
stump like raw hamburger, me carrying him in
howling. I can’t take it. Can’t sign up for that
even if sometimes I want to be hurled
like a grenade. What a crock, to pretend to blow up
solitary, like shrapnel won’t perforate nearby flesh.
Anyway the point is I won’t quit. Though I might take
flying lessons: Graves said my poems are like Pancho Barnes.
That’s one hell of a woman. After just six hours in the cockpit,
she had the trick down. I don’t know what G meant by it,
but I love a female ace and anything that keeps me
from an office job. You told me to avoid desks
and hucksters, both being bad for the constitution.
I think about your health. Whatever it is, kick its ass.
Shea misses you a lot and so do Jamie and the rest. Poetry
is boring without you. Come back and we’ll have a whole carton
of Winstons and that Irouleguy you liked
when you came by the restaurant. Send my regard to Ann –
ask if she’d mind the company of some rambunctious poets.
We’ll rent a car and drive upstate.
Get better. Come home. Love, Smeltz.
-- Amanda Smeltz (March 2011)