Open letter to James Schuyler

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Dear James

(may I call you James?) Though it’s been a while (at least ten years, maybe more) it feels as though somehow you’ve always been there at the same time as only just having arrived. Totleigh 2005, with Jean and the Dream Group, I took you down the Devon lanes and found New York waiting for me by the pond. I read them June 30, 1974, a touchstone of a sorts for me, much more than ‘of sorts’, I’m sorry, I mean a touchstone full stop. I don’t know how you did it. I would like to know (I don’t want to, really). I am guessing you just sat there and absorbed what happened, or didn’t. I say ‘just’. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to keep qualifying myself like this. Put it down to nerves. June, no,

August 2005. That was the date. I assume we must have met before, but how long? Where? When? I think I found you last of that famous gang, but you’re the one I go to most now. It needs saying. I took Kenneth there too, how they loved his new addresses, which, the more I read them, seem so sad, especially the happy ones. You might

like to know I spent a summer, once, with just (sorry) three of your poems, the long ones, copying and copying out great chunks and hoping they might transform me into something. The corms come by mail, are planted, / Then do their thing: to live! To live! That cut through me first and every time and I wanted you to know. But first, I think, I saw Martin quoting you in a review (I think), just one line: One/ gull coasts by, unexpected as a kiss on the nape of a neck. You were dead, he said, if that did not move you. Or words to that effect. I see you as a love affair, partly, because of that, I think. (I think). Even today I

found another of yours I had not seen before (Sleep, from the Payne Whitney poems) which I must have but must have forgotten, so today it was new. I saw it on Twitter. I wonder what you would have made of that? Would it have stopped you (I think it would) swerving off mid-line to talk about affairs, shopping, or cologne had you had to reach for your phone to say John forgot to bring the wine (again)? I do think it would, but then I am nearly always wrong, especially about those I love, which now includes you (it always did). A few

days are all we have. A few days, spend/ them riotously. When I first met you I was ill (but did not know it yet) and now everything I hear you say I refract through not having died (spend them riotously), that great advice to the living who do not know it but do not have

all the time they think, even though it faces and presses on them each day, much as you do, full face, alive, and present. I think it was June after all.

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