Jonathan Minton

from LETTERS

I imagined that you had returned, as if from sea,
as the hippalectryon, the fire-colored horse-chanticleer.
When I stitched my mistakes into yet another monster,
you said it was fate, but you locked the tower gates.
You took my grief into a faraway kingdom, and built a room for it,
where impish creatures scratch the floors in the dark.
You placed a laboratory table, complete with straps
and elaborate equipment to measure every pulse and twitch.
You adorned the walls with your image, and routed the demons
with sunrise singing. You lined the village fountains with rare coins.
Your cults filled the temples. At home, citizens whispered
your secrets to each other. I will ask you to sing them to me
later, while my eyes are still closed.

from LETTERS

You said our secrets kept us stranded. Somewhere else
there is a black box tossed in its wreckage, like a seed,
or polished stone. Somewhere else there is a sunken ship.
The wood is dissolving around the nails and rare coins.
They are like smooth, lidless eyes staring up from their depths.
On the shore there are wooden horses and hidden soldiers.
Someone has already invented this,
but they will destroy the city as if they were real.
Someone else will call your name. There is a mouth
inside this mouth that admits every mistake, but changes
the location to make it more exotic. In one version,
you are weeping beneath a yellowing cypress.
In another, a glacier is mirrored in the lake below it.
Something unspoken is also there, half-formed
between us, like a raw egg, or spring thaw.
Someone else is telling you nothing will change.
Someone else is saying goodbye.

from LETTERS

We entered a new city every summer, but we were lonely
because our maps didn’t include the historic bodies of water.
We toured the canals without a guide, and photographed the trees.
Some were arranged in grids, some in tangles, like slender masts.
One was adorned with lights that hung in its branches like gold teeth.
You described them as cruel because nobody could touch them.
In such sorrows, the worst silence is not the refusal to speak,
but the compulsion to say something, to think of a substitute for loss.

I carry this memory like a lantern or a cup into its next sentence.
Something imaginary keeps it there, as with all ships in their harbor,
or swords that carve their plunder into smaller treasure.

Jonathan Minton lives in central West Virginia, where he is a Professor of English at Glenville State College. He is the author of Technical Notes for Bird Government (Telemetry Press, 2018), In Gesture (Dyad Press, 2009), and Lost Languages (Long Leaf Press, 1999). He edits the journal Word For/Word.