National Poetry Month Day 25: Randall Mann

By

Letters from Satilla

Diann Blakely, 1957-2014

1.

Have you read Andrew Hudgins’ After the Lost War
or even Sidney Lanier’s “The Marshes of Glynn”?
That’s home for me. I’m married again,
but at times I think about buying one of those
Katrina Cottages and going alone to Birmingham,
my brother’s backyard: my nieces and nephews
are my greatest joys, and I’ve never lived
in the same town as my real friends.
But we have a beautiful little farmhouse
literally picked up and moved here.
We’re gated by an ungated community,
starter castles I only see when I leave
the house once a week for the doctors,
who inevitably mark the calendar.

2.

I have no left brain, and tend to think
like a cut-rate Henry James, progressing
associatively and constantly interrupting.
My mother is mad in precisely the same way.
Would she vote to legalize gay marriage?
Of course not. But in the early days
of AIDS, Mother was the primary organizer
of what I call the Casserole Brigade for Hairdressers.
She and her church group adored the men
who fixed them up each week at the Beauty Parlor.
She made sure her own hairdresser, who died,
as well as those of her friends’,
were delivered casseroles daily, and did not remain
uncared-for during their illness. No indeed.

3.

If addiction is a form of suicide,
eight of my friends have committed suicide
over the past few years, starting with Deborah.
We didn’t know each other well but bonded
over cigarettes (cigarettes!) at the Vermont winter
residency, held in Florida that year due to fears
of a lawsuit, after a writer slipped in Montpelier
and broke her hip. I have never heard
anyone scream quite as heart-stoppingly.
I was there in Florida to “substitute” (ridiculous
word, considering for whom) for Lynda Hull,
my great friend and mentor, after the wreck
crushed her feet and brought her back
to the needle that finally, indirectly, killed her.

4.

Ah well. Do keep those fashion notes coming.
I called Old Navy tonight and they were angels—
explained that I bought the spring line, and since
I’d dropped to 84 lbs., if they’d consider
taking it back, allowing me to buy “loungewear,”
I’d do everything in my power to secure them
a higher place in heaven. They couldn’t have been nicer.
I’m sure you’re busy—what do you do for a living
again?—but I miss you, dear friend. Have you ever
wanted to return to Gainesville for vacation?
I’m only four hours away. I can’t leave my home,
but I love having visitors, and if you come
for a spell, I’ll do my best to be well dressed—
I like to call it “invalid chic”—for the occasion.

–Randall Mann

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Randall Mann is the author of three books of poetry, most recently Straight Razor (Persea Books, 2013), a Rumpus Poetry Book Club selection. A new collection, Proprietary, is forthcoming from Persea in 2017. He lives in San Francisco.

Original poetry published by The Rumpus. More from this author →