A letter I found long ago in a second-
hand book, lies between two pages
like the leaves my mother pressed in wax paper,
bits of autumn to hold us
through the endless winters of Montreal
so cold, you could place a penny
against the ice on the inside
window, and it would stick and imprint
a maple leaf or the queen.
But now, this letter kept as bookmark, or never sent perhaps
by the girl who signed her name Anna Martins
I find (unpacking after the move south) and read again.
I hold it in my hand like a newly fallen bird.
It’s been a week since she’s heard from him
although he remains nameless. Just a “you”
on the blue onion skin paper; and in the top-left corner
the Lufthansa bird flies trapped in its circle.
It’s the eternal present and Anna says “I write
into an emptiness.” This on a flight
from Vienna to Florence, October 5 and 6, 1973.
In French she writes “Ce sont exactement les letters
qui soulignent la distance.” Letters underscore the distance.
She tells him how she listens to Joni Mitchell for consolation
and I imagine her listening to “A Case of You,” like we did
in my basement , touching each other like only 19-year-olds can.
Those tender imperatives.
A month after you died, I dreamt you called out,
telling me you didn’t know where you were.
Listen, Joni’s singing her heart out on the radio
while the Florida sun is burning us all.
Babo Kamel’s poems have appeared in The Greensboro Review, Alligator Juniper, the Grolier Poetry Prize, Contemporary Verse 2, among others. She was a winner of the Charlotte A. Newberger Poetry Prize, for which her poem was published in Lilith. Originally from Montreal, she now resides in Venice, Florida.