Until a few months ago I had never thought about my paternal grandparents as loving. They loved me like hell, sure, but references to their marriage always conjured images of a stereotypical postwar divorce: screaming woman in slacks, brooding man, martini glasses hurled across the room. [I can no longer quite tell which of these images have root in anecdote and which ones I have internalized from the three episodes of Mad Men I’ve seen.] Either way, they eventually had a spectacular falling out.
A few months ago we moved my grandmother, who had apparently kept hundreds of letters my grandfather wrote her during WWII. Bless the hoarder within her. I realize that in their raw form these mean little outside our family, but my mother bound them in chronological order for our own makeshift archive. This fragment is the first of many rethinking their legacy: bitterness and its antecedents. I want to tell how love I’ve long thought a hateful ruin was once every ounce a living thing, without denying what it became.
The boys asked after my gal I said Mine
is the type that is always swimming.
Number your letters or I shall not read them
more than thrice. Please I need
some way to serialize the glyph heaps, date
scrawls more than “trenchant”
or “tan you won’t see.”
I sent round records of my voice. Swell
how vinyl holds sound, how blind
recitation precedes creation. Lean
reach your backstroke thrumming
mountains away. Dearest
Janie the Fish if
iridescent dear. promise me