The question that he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.
Robert Frost, “The Oven Bird”
After your letter arrived I left the oven on all night and never once put my head in it. After your letter arrived I let one foot follow the other through the better part of the day. Your letter lay on the kitchen table by the paring knife on the stoneware plate with the apple core like a Dutch still life restored to its muted color. In the sink a spiral of lemon peel twisted like smoke toward the past and I think that I let it lie. The first day of night these eyes you opened were glassed and dry as your late martini. The next they brimmed into morning. It was time to rehearse the Sunday phone call, the new role laid out for learning. When you asked, Did you get my letter? I picked up the cue as if you had wired me roses in winter or proposed a pas de deux. Then partly for your sake I taught myself to sing the best song I could make: the burden of the oven bird’s diminished thing. Sang wash of sunlight on the sill and apple core, sang water glass half full of emptiness. Sang body all in shadow that I must bathe and dress.