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The Letter- poetry

By Marion Waterston, December 22, 2004


Did you write a letter?

I looked for it

I looked all over for it

If your desk, in your briefcase

In every pocket of your clothing

In strange places like the medicine cabinet

Even the refrigerator

But there was no letter

You didn't write one

And I wonder why.


It's one of the first questions survivors ask

"Did you get a letter?"

They must have looked too.

I recall how skilled you were with words

It was, after all, a part of your profession.

So I've agonized and tried to understand

Was your not writing in itself an unwritten message?


Did you fear, my love, that writing

Might sway you from keeping

That final appointment in your book?

Perhaps it seemed too rational an act

At a time when reason could not prevail.

Or, in some strange way

Were you trying to spare me?


Sometimes I wonder if you had written

Those last sorrowful lines

Would your hand have trembled over the words

The way my heart has trembled a thousand times

Since that soft sunny September letter-less day?


Marion Waterston survived the loss of two members of her family to suicide- her husband, Richard, a psychiatrist, forty-seven years of age, and her son Mark, a college student, nineteen years of age. Following the death of her husband, she helped found a group for widowed people in Rockland County, New York and served as its first president for three years. After the death of her son, some sixteen years later, she joined a group specifically designed for those who had lost someone to suicide. Upon moving to Albuquerque in 1995, she joined "SOS" (Survivors of Suicide) and for the last few years has been president of that group. She states that she's been aware of certain differences in the way she grieved for her husband and then, her son. Some of these differences are expressed in her poetry.


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