A Reply from Mother

Dear John
you’re sorry about the insomnia.
You said mine is hell too.
You want to know
how as a child you seemed to take your father’s death,
how you acted in the car –

it has taken a lot of doing
to go down
layer under layer.

You write this is a matter
of unique and urgent importance.

All I can tell you is
before the funeral parlor, before the graveyard
I buried the bullets
way down the beach.

All words taken from 3 letters between John Berryman and his mother, from We Dream of Honour: Last Years, 1959-1972, pps. 376-377.

Pippa Little was born in Tanzania and now lives in North East England, where she is a Royal Literary Fellow at Newcastle University. Her work has been published in print and online across the world and she has two collections, Overwintering from Carcanet, 2012, and Twist from Arc, 2017.

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