From Mena, by Hannah Abrams

I found your first love letter to me at the back of a magazine. I have built a house without your sighs, and it is insufficient. Reading that line, I tried to stay calm. I fried a steak and an egg and drank a small glass of juice. I studied my smoky prints on the glass. Then, all night, I huddled at my desk. I chose my words carefully.

The next morning, I waited in the rain for the post office to open. In the windows, I saw myself: eyes smudged, slippers soggy, hair a dark thicket, and just the littlest flames licking about my shoulders and thighs and curling from behind my ears.

The man behind the counter jabbed his grimy finger at the top of the envelope, leaving a mark where it said From Mena.

Want to fix that? he asked.

I said to him: I am Mena.

That spring a warm spell came and fruit ripened and fell and fermented on the ground. The birds were wild about it. They ate it up. They got drunk. And you know what? Their flight got drunk too. They crashed into windows and tumbled from the sky in great, slow spins.

There were still feathers on the ground when the next note appeared. I nearly missed it, they tuck you away so. The book was expensive, full of photographs and art. I sat down in the bookstore and carefully ripped each of my pages out. I stood, left behind me a ring of soot. Your letter I took to the sea. You wrote that there is in all of us terrific chaos. That nothing is simple. That we work wide orbits. You wrote: I dream of circumstance. At an empty harbor, I dipped my smoking feet in the salt water.

Fifteen letters in all. Months apart, then longer. Fifteen letters, all that I have of you, in a drawer I keep full of you. The paper is soft as fabric and little pinprick holes line the creases. No word for ten years now. But I don’t give up hope. I am patient. It’s important to stay at the desk and write back and know that the correct words will come. How far do you reach now, you asked once. How tall are your words. So here I am inventing bright new vocabularies to light your shape in the dark.

Tonight, from my burning bed, from my charred mouth, I will issue forth a flock of waxwings to feast on turned pepper trees, and to dizzy down like our very aches and solitudes into the city.


Hannah Dela Cruz Abrams received the 2013 Whiting Writers Award for her novella The Man Who Danced with Dolls and her memoir-in-progress The Following Sea. She has also received a Rona Jaffe National Literary Award and a North Carolina Arts Council Fellowship. Her work has most recently appeared in, or is forthcoming from, Oxford American, Carolina Quarterly, and Mayday Magazine. Abrams currently teaches in the Department of English at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.



  1. […] Arts by Carolennys, Madison Poulter, and Marcin Majkowski. Fiction by Claire Ibarra, Hannah Dela Cruz Abrams, Jeremy Townley, John Hough Jr.,  Justine Manzano, Matthew Dennis, Teresa Milbrodt, and Valerie […]

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