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Letter, Clip

Fritz Ward

If you go back far enough in my family tree there are birds.
-Susan Mitchell

Susan, if I had your ovaries,
I’d summon a homing pigeon

to deliver the plague. I’d sweep
feathers from the sidewalk

until I had a coffin or a pillow.
It’s not that I want you

dead, but yesterday, lying
on a picnic table

at a rest stop in Virginia,
all those syndicated symbols

of hope flocked straight
to a forest of Dutch Elm disease.

Susan, when I was you,
I let my breasts dangle.

I let the sand crabs creep
across my painted toes.

I asked the moon to drop
her stole of embittered light

so as to lead no one else astray.
For moral support,

I strung a hammock
between pine trees—

a family of nooses
holding hands.

Susan, high in the canopy,
a warbler sings and spreads

its communicable disease.
Below, pine needles

stifle the undergrowth.
Yesterday, I left my hollow

bones in the womb.
Today, I stand enormously

still. Like the ash tree
shading the crematorium,

I willow, but I cannot weep.

Susan, if I am God,
there are so many reasons

to worry. All I ask
is that you suffer

with me.

Fritz Ward is the author of the chapbooks Doppelganged (Blue Hour Press, 2011) and Tsunami Diorama (The Word Works, forthcoming in 2017). The recipient of the Cecil Hemley Memorial Prize from the Poetry Society of America, his poetry has appeared in American Poetry Review, Best New Poets, Blackbird, DIAGRAM, Gulf Coast, and elsewhere. He works at Swarthmore College and lives just outside of Philadelphia.