like envelope seams to some
imagined center. Like envelope seams,
night folds and folds. I want to be
slit open and not sealed closed.
You tell me Desire is epistolary.
It isn’t the poem but the distance between
the address and the addressee.
Dickinson wrote poems on envelope flaps,
in a script so small, one critic likened it to
the fossil tracks of birds.
Three letters addressed to Master
present some possible amours.
In a flap edged like home,
Dickinson writes: Hope builds a house.
Higginson thinks Emily
is a scared little mouse:
I must name my bird without a gun,
He writes, like Emerson.
The first time I held you close, I felt
how human skin is paper thin,
how contact isn’t touch, it’s skin so sheer,
you can feel the heart beneath it.
One note from a bird is better
than a million words, Emily writes,
on an envelope flap the shape of a wing.
Which gets a critic thinking
the shape of paper can determine
what gets written. Birds fly out of fear.
Some birds sing notes too high
for human ears to hear.
Emily writes to Higginson,
“You saved my life.”
He’s only certain
she’ll withdraw on close
inspection, like a shell.
You tell me how your mornings
fill with slow amours on stolen beds,
how your lover’s body folds into yours,
lap and peel. I slip my heart
into an envelope I cannot seal,
Instead I spill into the paper folds,
as numbers to a ledger. As Emily
to Higginson or Bowles,
her brother’s woman, Susan.
That no one knows to whom
she wrote, or why our Emily
goes unkissed, we cannot posit
more than this: how needless
pencil lead on a grid of squares,
an envelope that goes unposted,
however quivering the script—
We spoke to each other
about each other
though neither of us spoke—
Who will make of our desires
such gorgeous architecture?
Who will account for how brave
we were, you and I,
out of paper.