Lighthouse in Maine at dusk

Letter to America by Dean Rader

One Poem

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This. Here. Now.

This morning at my desk sitting in the window light
I am thinking only of you reader and the history

of us in particular you and how you came to be
with this poem in this country at this moment of your day

in the blurred passing of your own life from one
place to the next and here we are together

perhaps for the first time in language and I would
give more than you might expect to hear the story

of the seas that were by your ancestors maneuvered
and the plains ridden over and more than one murder

somewhere in your past the chances that one person
joined another to produce the life that would lead

before loss to one that would carry your promise to
another and to another and to one who should also

have died but who found the needed woman and man
sealed your blood beautiful in the body of the woman

who is your mother her terrible decisions miraculous
one after another after another all the times she lied

to herself to her loves and to the thrum in her bones
that made her that day stop or not stop and surely

go to that time it is her I am thinking about the
impossibility of her very existence the daily doubts

of her own skin it is her I imagine in the car in the bed
on the beach the arms of the others both loved and not

and those hours long and heavy you in your unskin deep inside
ferried like an unCharon dark upon dark through the muffle

and mystery of every single second it is her I conjure
when the you of you could have ceased but there is in you

so little of that which she could only guess only hope
like those days that were an idea of days but soon she was

in you in this life and now I am thinking as you read this line
of the her in you and both in this poem how every

possible misstep or setback had led to this stanza
one misery after another one solitary wave

in an ocean of darkness the tide never not receding
at least at times it seemed so but then even the glory

should have shown you something else but this
and yet again and still the light shines not on

but in this and she is who I address with this letter
because without her there would not be this now

or even a then when the poem is over and you write
saying she and you are in a poem that was not for anyone

but her and the terribleness that has despite the entire
pull of the universe in some other direction oriented us

toward those antecedents that have made possible
the impossibility of us being now here together




Dean RaderDean Rader has written, edited, or co-edited eleven books, including Bullets into Bells: Poets and Citizens Respond to Gun Violence, edited with Brian Clements and Alexandra Teague (Beacon Press) and Self-Portrait as Wikipedia Entry (Copper Canyon Press), a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award and the Northern California Book Award. He is a professor at the University of San Francisco and the recipient of a 2019 Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry.

Read two poems by Dean Rader previously appearing in

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