Marilyn Hacker

Lettera amorosa

Where’s the “you” to whom I might write a letter ?
There are dozens, none is the « thou » I never
did engage in dialogue: was I talking
to myself, loudly ?

You, your lion’s mane and your pale-rimmed glasses,
buccaneering over the swells of panic,
settled now, with a child, career and spouse in
lower Manhattan?

You, who picked the riverbank where we often
told our days with coffee at almost-twilight
to announce irrevocable departure ?
You’re gone, you said so.

You, but who are you, if I never met you,
man or woman, mother-tongue French or English
(maybe Arabic), you’re a word, a nameless
presence, night-fancied.

Letter, then, to light, which is open-ended,
folds, expands, but even on winter mornings
faithfully attends to the correspondence,
answers the question.

Marilyn Hacker, born in New York, used to live between New York and Paris, but has now made Paris her home. She’s the author of twelve books of poems, most recently Names, out last year from Norton, and of ten collections of poems translated from the French, including Marie Etienne’s King of a Hundred Horsemen (Farrar Strauss 2008)― by a French poet who grew up in Viet Nam and Africa―, and the Franco-Lebanese poet Vénus Khoury-Ghata’s Nettles (Graywolf, 2008). A collection of literary essays, Unauthorized Voices, was published by the University of Michigan Press―in the majority, essays on women poets, including Adrienne Rich, Alicia Ostriker, Marilyn Nelson, Julia Randall, and June Jordan.