Letters From Martha by Anne Michaels

I rip the envelope and I am in Bangkok.
I rip the envelope and I am in Varanasi
Allahabad Agra Delhi.
Christmas Greetings from the Katmandu Hotel.
I rip the envelope:
my kitchen reeks with saffron,
I’m in a smelly passage crowded with sari’d throngs,
rickshaws, market stalls.
You’re at my table, eyes alive with wild boars,
“skinny tea wallahs” carrying clay cups,
streets parting in the wake of a cow,
its cud a cardboard box soggy from vegetables.
I’m sorting your letters,
trying to keep the chronology,
the terrain of your marriage—in one letter
“better than ever, I’m in love all over again”
in another “torn between distance and desire.”
In Rajasthan you’re reading a letter from your mother,
a childhood friend getting married, a sister leaving home.
And you, in love with a place.
You hate to leave Nagaur
where they came from all corners of India,
exodus of camels to a cattle fair.
You describe slums decaying
in twilight the colours of silks.
Hating to leave Nagaur, torn between distance and desire.
I rip the blue envelope and hear the tangle of bracelets,
I am trying to find whose wrist they belong to in the gaudy market,
the flashy sunlight,
and there, your Western face and red hair
above that Indian river.
You pour from these squares, these blue envoys.
And just when I feel I’ve lost you in the world,
I can’t keep up,
your postcard comes with the words
“wait for me.”

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