Nearly unreadable now, paper wrinkled
as her hands, veins of ink blurred by tears.
But she had the words imprinted in her
mind to recall when memories surged.
She need not know that a fellow soldier
likely persuaded him, loaned him paper
to write an apology of sorts—I wish
I’d not enlisted,
yet she perceived his special gift,
a declaration of affection, the only way
he could voice it, I miss you all,
tell the children hello.
He mentioned shrapnel in his shoulder,
minor wound he claimed. She clutched
the letter to her heart, transmitted warmth
of her body, like a bird hovering her eggs,
as though, like a Holy Eucharist,
its ink might turn to blood, transform
the paper to pulsing tissue,
grow lungs and start to breathe,
become a living presence nurtured,
resting safe against her breast.
Image: A Letter from Pvt. Charles H. Austin, Civil War soldier