Dear Richard Hugo,

By Melissa Cundieff-Pexa

I’m drinking again and making futures
with your ghost. Your name spreads through water
smoking red with your blood, and yet, why don’t you

ever grow pale? You might be unsurprised
that little has changed since you died. Landscapes
are still the planet’s imagination.

I’ve decided I want to live in Livingston,
Montana. There, writers are not tender,
and people chew animal’s coronaries,

waltzing shafts of bone and ice through their warm
bodies. In Livingston, I’ll be a waitress.
I’ll love solitude as much as I ever have,

continuing on my search for a still
greater quiet like arctic air riding
a river solid. In Livingston, I’ll think

of how this sweet eternity needs just
your name and words. Your ghost will dispel
the myth that people can’t be haunted. Maybe,

even, I’ll pack your bones into my purse.
I’ll still be mostly alone then, but I
will be old. My skin thin with windows

like cicada’s wings, and you alone will
understand. I’ve lost the will to speak
except in grass or snow. In Livingston,

I’ll be no one but a face in the diner.
At night, I’ll get drunk like winter is my kingdom.
Together, we’ll swallow beer into your name,

your face gone bright with moon, rejoicing in
Livingston’s premature twilights. Some morning,
the sun will be late. We’ll stagger back to

our cage then, shut the door. After all, we
will be like wild animals caught by a neighbor.
He will pause at our untranslatable

eyes when they reflect back the privacy
your letters speak, having kissed and raised
the river’s dead.


Melissa Cundieff-Pexa is an MFA candidate in poetry at Vanderbilt University and head poetry editor for Nashville Review. Her most recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Iron Horse Literary Review and Fairy Tale Review. She lives in Nashville with her daughter, Wren Reveille. 

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