I threw away your letters.

Years ago, just like that.

The tight black swirls,

circles and strokes

filling fine sheets —

I would not see them again.

The last items I had left.

The dates. The phrases.

The things you said. Forfeited.

Snowflake patterns.

Leaf diagrams.

Crushed. Melted. Dissolved.

The flooding runoff

at the backed-up

street corner drain

collects it all.

Only the opening

of a strong seal far below

could allow that pool

of darkening rainwater

to run and drop away

between the slats.

If I were to recover

the lost key of the cursive,

I would in one instant

want back again what I saw

in the images

the hand traced out for me.

And would be denied

even the little

the letters kept of you

and be released

into nothing but more time.

Dive in
  1. What does the speaker say happens to the letters he throws away? 
  2. Whose letters do you imagine the speaker is referring to?
  3. How does the poem play on the double meaning of the word “letters”?
  4. What is it you imagine the poet would “want back again?” What did he see?
  5. “Letters” strikes an intriguing blend of matter-of-fact statement and metaphysical fantasy. How do these two modes influence the tone of poem? How could that be represented in a recitation?
  6. Write a poem about throwing away something that was given to you. Address it to the person who gave it to you. Explain to that person why you had to part with the gift.

Useful Links


Read an interview with Russell Thornton: http://prismmagazine.ca/2014/11/29/an-interview-with-russell-thornton/

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Bibliographical info

Russell Thornton, “Letters” from The Hundred Lives. Copyright © 2014 by Russell Thornton. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Source: The Hundred Lives (Quattro Books, 2014)

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