Frieda Hughes & John Kinsella
1st December 2003 & 2nd November 2003
Dear John, Counting Blessings.
I put aside the idea of A letter-poem in May, in answer To your email – to visit A friend in Melbourne Who was dying of cancer. We’d visit the husband’s father too, But a week before we left we knew He was dead, his wife Too boiled in spite to grieve, Having kept him broken-legged In the bed, a fortnight until A blood-clot got him And he could finally leave.
We visited death every day As it took up residence in our friend’s face, Her skin, its mask, The scar on her bald skull Not as wide as her smile, Her fingers knitting up her past, Her present and the time left last As she spoke, as frank as the saw That cut her head open, As if she’d knit up the cranial hole And restrain her evaporating soul. Hours with her were delicate straws – like glass, Clasp too hard and all that’s left
Are scars and shards to mark the loss.
Back in England whole dead trees Piled on the mat by the mailbox, Sliced, pulped and rollered through printers, They’d collected in heaps. It took weeks To undo all the things delayed Until I got back to letters in May.
We forgot our wedding anniversary For the seventh time today. I was reminded by dating The back of a dog painting, Realising she was as old as our marriage. We ate pizza from cardboard And drank Veuve Clicquot From fish-stemmed glasses, Bought on a walk in New York, And for a few moments watched Each other’s colours sink Back into the stain Of our outlines, illuminating Our deep breath before the next Upheaval scatters our purpose again.