Lost Letters

Scott Beal


A single forklift stows a crate

in a stack down one of many aisles

of a warehouse which seems, as the camera

pans back, the size of Wyoming.

And if I say my lost letters are there

am I thinking of the maze of my brain

down whose corridors have blown

each word I fumbled toward

a dozen loves I failed and keep failing?

Or do I mean one banded stack

signed by the woman I would marry,

lumped in a crumpled box in the back

of storage unit #631 behind a corrugated door?

The crate in the scene, we know, contains

the ark of the covenant. The nazis want it,

but we’ve seen their vanguard lift the lid

to reveal the glow inside. We’ve seen that glow

burn through the chests of a hundred men

who dared to look, leaving not one charred

knucklebone behind. We understand

we can be unmade by daring too close

to what made us. I’m glad I married.

Our years contained happinesses.

But I wasn’t sure I wanted to. I swallowed

doubts, and my muscles grew to express them

through motor skills large and fine. They left me

hungry. Sometimes I fear

I am only doubt and that is why radiance

and raptors pass through with little resistance

but wind. What would it mean to read

such letters, to unbox the moment

I became what I am? To what end

would they burn me?