A Letter to Greta
“…so pitying and yet so distant,” Cecil Beaton
Among my father's posthumous
flotsam recently washed up in my house,
I found a letter, postmarked 1928,
addressed Miss Garbo Hollywood Cal
(Private!), stamped RETURN TO SENDER,
sealed unread and stored for sixty years
inside its author’s desk. Held to light,
the envelope revealed a trace of earnest
cursive written to a star flickered
on a million screens. I set a kettle
on the stove to steam the letter open
and expose the heart of this dead man,
once vestal boy, husband to three wives—
one widow, one dead, one faithless
(also dead)—fighter pilot with cleft chin
and good teeth whose friends had died
from too much war or too much booze,
who, if asked, what happens when you die?
would sip his drink and say, "you rot."
When the envelope at last unglued,
I found a time-fogged photo of a skinny
school-age boy standing contrapposto,
looking straight into my eyes. I slipped
the photo and unread letter back inside
the envelope, taped it shut, and late
that night went outside and burned it all
as offerings to a heaven of Gretas.
Edison Jennings is a part-time teacher living in the southwestern Appalachian region of Virginia. His poetry has appeared in several journals and anthologies. His chapbook, Reckoning, is available at Jacar Press.