Tell Frances Mandarin Oranges

Dear K,

This morning some activists were found dangling from the St. John’s Bridge in an attempt to stop a big oil ship from beginning Arctic drilling. They look like yellow spiders tied to red blossoms, and the threads tethering them to the bridge and out over the water sort of sparkle. I’m thinking of them there, now, in the heat as the sun goes down. They are said to have enough supplies for days.

When I was little my parents had a friend named John who kept climbing the fence at the Hanford Nuclear Site in the middle of Washington State. John was married to Junie, my preschool teacher. At Junie’s house I had two best friends: Sam and Mikey. There’s a picture of us on our plastic toilets being potty trained. I don’t know who I was then but I can still touch some part of that person. I wonder what it was like for Junie and John in bed at night. What did they say?

I remember standing outside of my apartment with you and T and talking about how to find our surrogate families. Maybe we were eating cherries? Something was spit on the ground and we laughed. I like you because you’re eager not to leave anything. Your heart is a thorough machine. Sometimes you would come to workshop and you were part-river: a threaded, moving K. Into the room you brought mountains, taller gods, the blinking insanity of a quick mind in a dull moment, purple, skin. You knew how to listen just beyond—
you are always hearing the first sound and the next sound, too. We need you.

I always wanted to know people like you—those that can do everything, and do. Once we ate milk popsicles on Sauvie Island. Once we took a bag of clothes and traded it for a turquoise ring. More than once we ate salsa verde and big pieces of trout. Once you and T sat in a tiny white room with your legs pulled up and watched me fumble through poems, broken-hearted. Once I watched you read a poem about corgis and blow the whole room to quiet. Once I tried to picture your house in the desert, you said there was a fireplace, you were so in love with someone back home you couldn’t sleep. Once you left a sign on my porch. Once we sat against a wall in a café and held hands. Once you caught me coloring in a small mandala coloring book. Once I caught you in the window of the vegan bakery, changing everything. We sat on the floor to drink the tea. We opened the windows when we drove. We understood how to make a smooth place for silence. We found a ceramic cat above someone’s entryway, it was raining. We touched linen pants and didn’t buy them. You gave me a blue mug. I gave you a brown scarf. Two big salads, a picnic bench. You said, it is essential that you stand where you are. You said, don’t come down, girl. I don’t know what I said. I can only hope. Dangling, together, at night and over water, the rest of our lives.

I love you,



Sweet bean,

I'm eating a chocolate chip cookie at a coffee shop in Missoula -- have you been here? It's a poet town, I think. You can apparently surf in the river. We've been floating around for a few days now, driving to different mountains & walking up each one partway. Last night we slept at a "hot springs resort" thirty miles outside of town, which was actually an RV park across the street from a cement sulfur pool. It was great -- resourceful, kind of. A real Fuck It approach. Montana seems completely oblivious to its own immense & dangerous power, like an ungrounded wire, or a thirteen-year-old girl. The sky is big, like they say, though I only count four colors. Blue, green, brown, gray. It's hard to have very smart thoughts.

It feels like I'm looking for something here but I'm not sure what. Escape, probably. It's been a nice break from the city, & from work, & good to just be free in the world with the person I love. Yesterday we walked through the quiet neighborhoods here, building up a nice little house fantasy. Then we drove to the forest & ate mushrooms & felt like the moon was yelling at us to cool it. Who to believe, etc. J asked me if I felt more powerful in the woods or in the mountains. I think I feel most powerful when sunburned in the beverage aisle of a small town grocery store.

I miss you. Where are you? Will you tell me about your neighborhood & your students & your rivers (are you going?). I miss the way my brain works when it has you to bounce itself on. I miss you, in general. Are you writing poems? I'm not writing poems at all, unless you count the aforementioned walks through grocery stores (I do). So many parts of America seem to function just fine without Art -- what's that mean? I feel optimism here, wherever, just driving & sleeping & eating out of necessity. The moon fucks with me like an older brother. I am trying to remember everything. I hope one day soon we will be this hopeful, out in the wherever together, two mandarin oranges on the dashboard.

Tell Frances I love her very much. I know we will all see each other again one day soon.

Grateful for you, amazing friend.