The Anonymous Letters of Gloria Vanderbilt

Gloria Vanderbilt
Gloria Vanderbilt

At the flea market, she bought a perfectly trussed parcel
of letters and placed them, unread, in a transparent
plastic cage she keeps like a laboratory specimen
in her studio.  She had bathed in the fragrance of
old onionskin and the scent of lovers’ touches on
the yellowed envelopes and holds them, unopened,
in trust, still binding the secrets that spill onto pages
from the heart’s blood of lovers’ murmuring pens.
In the graveyard of poetry anthologies, we plunder
dead scribes’ rhymes with untutored reading, wondering
why the Royal Academy let Burkes and Hares like us
visit your graves, ragpick you to breathe new life into
our archives.  But a few of us know that you wrote not
for us, but in defense of the sanctity of secret intent
to which we supply the content, suborning hidden
discontents.  A few of us collect flint, schist, mica
or even fool’s gold to pirate away your rest, leaving
one mineral kiss of emulation on your headstones.
In the end, all letters are bound with the twine and
caution tape of our lives, marking casements that
are not to be pried by voyeurs when they’re left behind.
Gloria left these strangers’ secrets safe in a see-through
box, mysterious even though within reach.  Like the
dead poets, she shares our gift of ambivalence, knows
the worth of the underrated strategically placed footnote.

Pamela Sumners

If you have any thoughts on this poem, Pamela Sumners  would be pleased to hear them.