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April 1, 2012 vol 8 no 1

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B. Ellis Williams

A Letter to My Grandmother

I will write a letter to my Grandmother, who died in a hospital in El Paso, alone and sixteen-hundred miles from her home of fifty-six years—my home, which took me twenty-nine years to discover—far from anything she knew, or anything anyone knew.

"It's been a long, hard year," I will say, "and I can hardly stand not having you here, can hardly stand anything at all, especially knowing that in the winter I will not find the comfort of your table, of the old house, perfect in all its subtle obscurity. No quiet conversations in the kitchen, late at night, about Virginia and the old mountain boys, about the struggles and joys of the old life—or of any life."

And I will send it up on a pillar of fire, like the heathen sacrifices of our distant fathers, because you have to trust someone, somewhere, in the end. What's done is done. And nothing can ever be reclaimed. This much I have learned. But things have a way of haunting us. Decisions have a way of slowly transforming into regrets. We spend our lives trying to bury the idols of youth, playing to the images we've made, trying not to face the unending fact of our aloneness.

Though the truth, as long as man has labored, has always been hard to swallow. Like the letter to my Grandmother—the one I put off sending for far too long. Like saying all this tonight, at the start of September, in an empty café, with the music that burns like a fire of lost and longed for years.

Stepping out into the night—
an empty wind that keeps blowing
everything away into darkness