hillary keel | writing

swimming particles in a field

old swivel chair I sit
at vintage dining table
for desk, I swim through
grainy computer interface
with 1939 letter;
enlarged in PDF file
to better decipher
lines and curls
etched with ink
and nib on paper

crickets buzzing in spine
flowing to other end
of faces I’ve never met

staring at white walls;
on the other side
a man clears his throat

I read letters
written by a woman
named Paula,
examine curlicue and dots
—she adds a p.s. to her girlie
—why no letter from her?
the safety of her children—
she is sick with worry;
a boy named Georg—
a screen between Paula
and me

a wall between me
and the man,
a door into yard
where I have planted
Moroccan mint;
I hear swing set song
from playground
at the end
of the West 22nd
street block

how Paula dots her i’s
writes the letter ‘m’
like an ‘h’
and remains in Vienna
while her children have
arrived elsewhere,

New York acquaintances
Paula envies
for breathing
the same air as;

little guppy mouths make an O shape,
owl faced creatures cooing in my ear,

barking of dog in playground
merges with man’s barking cough
and I speak to the paint,
to the man in pain,
‘Who devoured
my Moroccan mint?’

Paula will be cornered in,
betrayed by a lawyer,
then scooped up by Nazis,

moaning man
studies Arabic
the history
of this building,
says once a man
in here had a python
and chickens out back,
they made horrible sounds
heard clear through the building

and Paula scooped up by the Nazis
after desperate sale of home as I sit
on train with speckles of Hudson light;

I write Mother, I know this time of year
so hard for you, my eyes fill with oceans
of green light and Hudson speckles
laying hands on my back, a fog lifts
over cliffs, while Paula has long disappeared.

Watching ship going downriver &
out to sea signaling a dispersal
your letters, Paula, land in my hands.