ali lanzetta
dear,

i wanted to tell you something, and it couldn’t wait, but i’ve forgotten what it was.

when i say i’ve forgotten, what i mean is the thing that’s most important is that the door is wedged open. i mean, i’m peeling my way through your sentences, looking for the brilliant pit. waiting for you.

the moon, when it’s out, is crooked. i’d rather us not be seeing the same one, but it’s the nature of the moon to be always the same and different. there must be a word for this. i think the word is library. i think the word is fissure or snow, which means falling in light or sometimes means a mass of flickering white spots caused by interference of. it means cocaine, or dessert (vanilla snow) or a frozen gas resembling. if we use it as a verb it makes a bit more sense for us, i think? as in to mislead or charm (someone) with elaborate or insincere words. when it’s flickering-white and falling by honeyed streetlamp, though—my god—it’s beautiful. it’s raining. it’s january. in april, i hope you’ll have come to your senses and stopped believing everything i say.
what i’m trying to say is we’re all starving.

we’re all walking chambers for buried gems, is what i’m trying to say. subterranean and dumb.

we’re all being haunted by our memories, and hunted by each other’s.

which reminds me:

i looked up your birth-day in my book today. the page was blank, except for a splattered drip of someone’s dark something, stained the paper. on the opposite page, it said,

he’d be invisible if it weren’t for his blue sneakers.

i looked up mine in yours before i left—i never told you that. the page was hypercolor, kaleidoscopic, it glowed in the dark like those enchanted plastic stars people stick to the ceilings of their kids’ cluttered, canoe-sized bedrooms so they can sail their giant, winged dreams at night like galactic birds.

whatever it is that wants to be written can use you to write it, it said.

i just thought you should know that it said that.

love, ali




dear,

this is a list of everything i’m going to need you to be.

last was never the place to meet. but what should you do? yank open your winter coat, sending the buttons sailing across the room as a series of pops into the fluffy asparagus fern? put your nose to my neck? okay, no, don’t do that. movement is always beautiful, but—still—don’t.

you can read this letter as you would any other letter. it’s been said that struggle changes an ordinary human into a spiritually awake person. (no, you can’t read this letter like that, can you.) read it like this:

a herd of elephants eating cashew leaves and singing.

or this:

your mother had a dream when you were buried in her belly. deep well, brilliant sunlight.

the dream may have had three heads, like that terrible dog of the ancient underworld (you know the one!) and they all had eyes for only you. i’m going on a picnic and i’m bringing a deep well, brilliant sunlight, and a flat rose trellis painted up the wall of our meeting. if i write you a letter, you’ll have to meet me here, because your conception was the letter your mother wrote you and you responded.

forgive me for being forward, but tides do turn, sir.

you have to start sometime, you said. i’m almost certain you said this.

i’m standing here with my little stick, attempting to draw a line in the mud for the sake of you.

love, ali




dear / dear

1.

use your neurons efficiently. i've been saying it for years. dad is like a crazy person. he gets this health report. i like to do one thing at a time. your uncle says hello and goodbye. just when things are looking great, a mess shows up. this ink will not dry on this paper. i need to sit with a cup of tea in the sunroom, get out my dictionary, if it weren't for that floppy dog i never would have known. let me know when you get these socks.

your avocado pit is in its paper bag in the cupboard.

the leaves are starting to fall today. i'm not ready for winter yet. too many windows. too many flowers to put in the ground. "dance your way to december," your grandma always said, it's always about dancing. i could have stayed in the museum longer, rockefeller center, empire state building, the staten island ferry. sometimes i miss the old brownstones, but the air is crisp, and apples are delicious. i saw a huge deer in the back field yesterday. right out at our tree line by the Miles' side. the goldfinches are everywhere, are such a bright yellow.

here is a blanket with a picture of a house on it. i couldn't resist.


2.

somewhere faraway, a dog drinks out of a birdbath with the blue jays. mosquitoes. the fat round tops of apple trees. do you still haul your wounded apples to the woods for the deer? here's the list i compiled for your recipe:

  1. a rainy-day toad in the grass who pees on you when you pick him up.
  2. a finger pointing like an arrow. smudgeprint. the postman's "ACK!" a return-to-sender stamp.
  3. a dog drinking out of a birdbath.

is this how history perpetuates itself? i put wheatgerm or black pepper. i put cinnamon, lemon, "teabags for bruises!", i put it on everything. everything you said. i am a girl with a teacup on my head. my poison oak and love handles healing. the problem of bittersweet and jetty, glittery snowdrifts, the kitchen window. here, it's a problem of can't see the lunar eclipse through the streetlights, or snazzy hairdo dogs eating garbage in the park. here, where bus drivers keep running everyone over. i want to play in the blueberries instead, or storm an abandoned castle. want to? i bet good birds live there. and gnomes, for dad, with pointy hats.

it's just that those double-consonant words are tricky and always trip me up, and the whole thing is like that. which thing goes where?

the apples, the trees. the mistakes that planes make, pretending to be the moon. my musical feminist hero having tendonitis and a baby, i don't know what the world is coming to.

i'm starting to sound like you.

here is a picture of me, cut out of the picture. i took it by mistake.




box of rain

i need a word to start. a word to roll around on the tongue, tasting each letter and sound there in the dark.

in the dark of words, ideas are buried like fossils. rain skims in rivulets. who wrote all that? rain skims in rivulets, like fossils.

like fossils, we petrify on the couch. or the couch petrifies us. or we petrify each other, one exhausted from finding and the other exhausted from losing. one tired of talking and the other tired of. one a box of sand, the other a box of rain. the other a box of other. the other a box of air.

a box of air is sent priority mail to my doorstoop. i keep a rock-stop shaped like a penguin. sometimes we can’t warm up. the mailman hands me the box and the dog is barking. the mailman looks at me like he’s waiting for me to answer a question he didn’t ask. his eyes are brown like the floor of my closet. i only say mine because i put all my things inside. piles of dust-crusted mismatched shoes that never get paired. my eyes are a set of sparrow nests. they build homes in the eaves of a little garden shed Somewhere Else where it’s warm and dry and smells like a memory of chickens and cherry tomatoes and every summer i’ve ever had or wanted to. summer in the country is something else. here in town, the mailman has to slosh through a concrete rainpuddle to get to my door. something has been unwrapped and its wrapper is floating in our puddle like an abandoned boat. when i do nothing but look back with all this in my eyes, he carries the box away carefully, winding around the impossible potholes like a postage-stamp ribbon in the wind.

like a ribbon in the wind, i am homeless and nameless and i can’t tell what color i am until someone points at me. i can tell by the look on the face if i am pink or if i am blue.

if i am blue, i am the sea. if i am the sea, i am the beginning. if i am the beginning, i am the ending. if i am the ending, if i am the ending, if i am the ending.

if i am the ending when he leaves, there is a sparkling egg crouched in the light of my eye. there is a wind of flowers in his wake. flowers or weeds. i wonder when it will be ready to hatch. i wonder what i am growing. sometimes i long to find out, and sometimes i long not to.

“not to be a wet blanket,” she says, “but your face is on backwards.”
“what do you mean, my face is on backwards?”
“you’re wearing it backwards.” she says.
a pigeon swoops in an arc of iridescence, the morning air pirouetting around her like a ballerina performing a solo show to nobody. i catch them in a net of the corner of my eye. i turn to watch them sail away, but all i can see are my feet, planted like fenceposts in the dirt.

in the dirt of the heart, a rotten egg.

egg-white whites of the eyes, i don’t want to see you this close. when you don’t move aside you look like a mountain i didn’t intend to climb. i guess i grew you with my clumsy wishing. i guess i accidentally wished you into a cloud that blots the sun out. i guess the sun shines down on everyone the same. i never really thought that until now. in my eyes a starburst, a flower-weed takeover, a mistake. in my eyes a mess nobody knows how to clean up. too many birds. too many mess. maybe i’ll only walk backwards now. maybe i’ll only know how to walk away.

how to walk away: unchange everything, which is changing everything, but isn’t.

isn’t it / heart egg / dirt splatter / flower weed / still life / garden bed / sad sap / heart sick / leaf eaten / moon trod / spell bound / bee breath / sting ray / blue bell / light year / love less / sea change / afterthought

after, thought i’d never have to feel lonely again, but i was wrong. i find a family inside of my family that isn’t mine.

“this isn’t mine,” i keep saying. he keeps making a face. “what isn’t mine?”

what isn’t mine inside is bubbling up to the outside. it’s a bad scene. all our excitement swelled me up like a balloon. in the basket, love swung. looked down over the hillsides and winding paths leading everywhere. looked down the sun-licked canopy and saw the bright dapple from which birds plunge, where trees make their warm berried moon-leaves. looked down and saw a very long drop. it’s a long drop, i said. i only said it once or twice. love winked at me like a bandit. i might have even seen a skull and crossbones on his hat. i know, love said, leaning the edge, looking out over the tiny world that fanned itself open further and further beneath us. i know, love said, but isn’t it something?

something someone maybe i’m choking, choking on my choices. this one like smoke. this like sugar. are you having difficulty breathing? swallow it. let it fester in your belly like a sour dream. wake up.

up to nothing, i take my days off, one at a time. i brush my lips against the hours, needing each minute to kiss me, each moment, every lost inch of the day to breathe me in as i, in turn, breathe. my dry leaves of breath, all these yellows falling. i’m an umbrella opening and closing like a mouth, like a tongue taut with a mystery of wishes. across the street, a bent man piles garbage to the sky, his blue house crumbling under a weight of rainclouds. in autumn, the river mumbles, its mouth filled with stones. a black snake with a yellow stripe. a rust of leaves crowding the banks in a papery surrender. the bent man tips his head back to look up, sputters and coughs, chokes on the sky like an engine that can’t catch. begin again, says the river. then again.

then again, the paint chips aren’t chips at all, but little colored rectangles of hard paper. they have names like MAGNOLIA SPRAY and PICKING DAISIES. underneath, it will be dirty. underneath, there are holes in the walls, the floor, our shoes, the rain. underneath. the windows will be dirty where no clouds have holes in. underneath, all the sad, sad words hiding, underneath where there’s nothing to know. maybe the sun only hides behind the weather. we are going to paint over everything.

maybe we can paint over everything.




reasons for reaching

instead, i'm declaring my love for weather: i am a window, look through me. i meant to be a meteorologist. my foot got tangled somewhere in an uabridgement, a sharp turn of phrase near an opening to the inside, i fell into a bookshelf like a bottomless dumpster piled with whole planets of abandoned words and i've been trying to find my way out ever since. it's a lonely job.

-

a kiss sneaks in. a non-object. a non-idea. a round thing, a supple thing that moves as if alive. a slow, sinking thing with taste and sound and infused with meaning as if with honeysuckle, star thistle, water lily, lemon. oh, how i'd like one. my nose wet and lonesome as a wolf, cold, my liking funneled into an extra sense, or a non-sense, or i'm thirsty, can't you help me, as if i wanted to drink a lake.

-

dear, i'm trying to collapse you and me into we. i'm skimming the top of the pond for a good reason, a relativity, a resemblance. too much underneath. my reflection develops a tragic wrinkle when a frog leaps from the embankment to catch a mosquito. i must stop frowning. way down in wonder where my eyeballs are connected, contraction/expansion, where the room lights up with my best or worst idea. i'm hunting something, but i don't know what it is.

-

i'm very sensitive to cycles. what's the difference between a symbol and a metaphor? i'm an answerless, a guard crow, gaudy, purring softly in a yellow poplar, a Tulip Tree. i won't lose faith in humanity until we lose faith in flowers. our love for beautiful, useless flowers.

-

or catching beauty, setting a trap for it in the woods, like a brush-covered trick to disappear, teardrop steam, papery leaves down a slant autumn light, a rust-colored cheek gleams with sweat and salt and snot and all—

-

i'm haunted, lopsided, trying not to scare myself away. don't let me freeze my evolution or i'll be a sitting duck. all the choices we make are evolutionary votes we're casting, every single day. (you feel sorry for yourself, lips all a-grumble.) harkening back to the mangle, i'm trying to know the difference between a zygote and a lightbulb.

-

half-imagined dark things, or bright things, or skyward things. it's possible that we know as little about the sky as we know about the ocean. your guess is as good as mine. the world is brimming with invisible things we won't ever see. think about that. you're living on an island in the middle of it, your black eyes bright and glassy, like telescopes. all your raptures and sorrows leave you wanting, circumnavigate your self in a great circle, disassembling your ideas to more resemble saplings, wind, water. the way you want your lips to work but they won't.

-

"don't bluff your way out of your heart," you said, "but deliver the thing itself."
trying to fit it into the postal-blue dropbox was another story entirely. when a sugary lump of it squished out of the corner of its recycled paper packaging and smeared genuine red against the open door, when most of the heart is hard, but middles are soft as fresh bread or butter, churned in the endless project of adjusting to the weather. it hardens from the outside in. there's hope for it. if nothing else, you can make breadcrumbs when it gets there.

ali lanzetta is a woolgatherer, artist, writer, and bookseller who lives between trees, sleeps under blankets of books, and is enamored with giraffes, whose hearts are over two feet long. Her poetry and prose have appeared in Verse, Switchback, Eleven Eleven, A Capella Zoo, Switched-On Gutenberg, Flock, Postcard Poems & Prose and elsewhere, and are forthcoming in Deluge. ali studied Creative Writing in San Francisco, but eventually set sail from the city to love, live, and practice the literary arts in a Vermont valley filled with birds.