these poem-letters were first drafted as part of an ongoing correspondence with Zoë Fay-Stindt, begun in August 2021. writing between Toronto and Iowa, we exchanged these reflections and observations, these invitations into intimacy as a commitment to building closeness across distance and through language. over the course of the last two years, these words have begun to echo, to hold aloft and examine the same questions, to spiral and return; they began, as Z writes in another letter, to "sing with memory."
1. abundance, abundance
—with a line by Audre Lorde
that I’ve lived amongst for years without knowing
its name—magnolia, mustard (newly beloved
shade of bold), Kobechenonk, and then sycamore,
orchid, philodendron, sansevieria with their glut of green
and shadow, guzzling up every inch of window—
but already, I digress. dear Z, what I want to know
is how your near ones call you. you asked me
what my joy is. I’ve been saving up, small
parcels of here to remember in this letter.
sidewalk petalled gold by sunflowers on Shaw, storefront
kitten peddling vintage skirts, sun-sugars (that’s tomatoes!)
in the salad from a friend’s harvest, these
run-on thoughts, eddying, steadying the drift
between Monday and Friday, when finally—time!
to write to you. I keep listing streets but what
I mean is, where can we meet? by the willow tree
I stood beneath last breakup, the Humber bending
light around its branches, my sublet with so
many windows we can see the sunset from
every room. did you know I studied physics, back
when I believed the world was only order and
geometry—but what I mean is I’d like to share
every second of this August sky. I am listening
through my life to reach you. through Audre too:
it is never easy to demand the most from ourselves,
from our lives, from our work. you deserve ease.
you deserve this not-ease. show me again the photo
of those baby goats you fed in Tennessee, your freezer filled
with summer peach. dear golden fur, dear bearded
joy. I’d like to live on the surface of your eyes, even
for a day or two.
on planes. on pages. the stained backs of receipts.
the cost of living—facial recognition software
and dust tufts on the windowsill. mind rising, my
time not mine, a wound in the day’s skin. the days
I am dirt, bruised by lake light. white rain, mauve
clouds, the sky’s breath leaking. each night shift
a sigh, each self a shoreline
to run from. early on, I learned to replace
what-if with after. every hospital bill, eviction slip, every later
I’ll rest— how can I halt the ticker? I’m asking
for one minor moment where the self is not
numbered entirely. if distance were cheap
I’d be sitting on the wooded deck, watching
you scatter cloves of garlic in your garden. but rent
cheque, return flight, your texts left on read, and I’m still
clinging tight—to what, I don’t know—
I tell myself I don’t know. it’s November
and my mind floats above me, casting soft
purple shadows. I imagine a slow life, one
in which the pungent bulbs, too, spend thirty
years on growing. in this one, I’m weathered and
you’re sending me another photo of the view
from your kitchen window— green hour, wet
in your palm, my blood beating like a wing.
Edited by Emilie Menzel and Maria Picone.
The featured image was created for this piece by our Art Director, Meg Sykes.