Oct/Nov 2003 Poetry


by Jeff Scott

Photo-Art by Tara Gilbert-Brever


(after Jim Daniels' "Dear…")

Today I find the beginning
of a letter dated 1999—
who was I writing to?

In 1999 I walked the slow
half mile between my house
and school, looking in people's

windows to see what normal
people did on normal nights
in a very normal city.

I slept on a tatami mat
next to cobwebs and
half-full ashtrays.

In 1999 I drove across the country
to old gold California. I was
stopped at the border and searched—

they didn't want any oranges
entering their states and killing their crops.
Good thing they didn't look under the seat.

In 1999 I got lost in a national forest.
I drank pond water and ate berries,
just like in the movies.

In 1999 I traded majors
like used cars, testing them out and
then abandoning them by the road.

Dear... the beginnings
of a letter dated April,
when I loved baked beans

for their simplicity and versatility,
their campfire possibilities. I smashed
a computer in my living room

because it was mine and I could.
No father to come in and tell me
about common sense or practicality.

I hid at a campground for a week,
just me and the raccoons. I believed
in the glowing poets of yesterday.

I stalked the dark corridors
of the phone company, listening
to the murmurs of a thousand

electric fairies lost in circuit boards.
I smoked with a truck driver
at lunch. He laughed

like a cannon and told me stories
that should have been published
in Hustler... or Time.

I sat on my porch and ate fat
hamburgers and watched old
El Caminos roll by like

ancient steel chariots, on their way
to park five to a lawn
and only creak out

in the middle of the night.
Dear... I was 19 and did know
better. I lived with the happiness

of scribbled pages, stunned
by their foreign tongue. Dear... dear...
Dear... I'm lonesome now

for that missing ideal;
I crinkle the testament,
the unwritten letter. I remember

the cracked walls, the cats living in the basement.
I killed spiders on my own wall every day,
on the hour. Often, I killed

my only companions. Far from those days, in these days
of blessed peace, I stare
at my unfinished letters. I take pen to page:

Dear... A can of hot baked beans,
the sound of hot rubber on cracked pavement,
handwriting that wasn't mine.


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