Writing is Better Than Dating

A letter arrives, post restante, from Jerusalem. Funny, how spring-infested love comes back during this week of full-moon summer. Do I remember him? How could I forget!

“Written letters entail a deepness, a thoroughness, as if they should encompass all that I have to say to you up until now,” he writes. “Will these really be the same words once they have made the distance from my house to yours?” There’s no telling, but after one read-through of the letter I can say they are words enough to keep the dialogue going, no doubt.

Each page is heavily scented from the coffee he sent along. But not just any coffee—Israeli coffee, which has a spectacular reputation. The secret? Ground cardamom. He included brewing instructions, which is good because I cannot read Arabic. As an addendum to the instructions, he explains: “After you’ve made the coffee the traditional way a couple of times, you can just do what all the Israelis do. Put a big teaspoon of coffee in a small glass cup, poor boiling water on top, wait for the grounds to settle, and enjoy. (This goes well with a weekend newspaper and a cigarette, not that I endorse smoking, or newspapers…)”

All of which explains, quite precisely, the scent (poem) I so cherished while he was still in Appalachia, taking class up at the craft school, busy making pots.

In addition to the letter, he has sent along this observation followed by a poem:

“Summer, being hot and harsh in this part of the world, fills me with a longing for those cool, hidden corners of the world, for cold marble stones, for a breeze and an afternoon nap with sheets which are cool to the touch, and when the days’ heat has died, for a warm embrace which holds in it the memory of the harsh sun and a promise of a gentle heart. And here is a poem which for me is inextricably tied to summer—

This Is Just To Say by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

And which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Do people who write letters like this really exist? I hold the proof in my hands. Thousands upon thousands of miles away but yes, they do exist.

* * *

A friend elbowed me in the kitchen at work the other day and said, “Yeah, [Dan] made that main course. He’s a really good guy, by the way, if you’re ever looking for a date.”

It caught me off guard. A date? Me? With like, another human being? And before I knew it, I was already responding: “Oh no, I’m not looking. I’d rather be writing. That’s much more productive and manageable.”

We both laughed, but I was serious.

And then I thought about it later—about what a paradigm shift that is from where I was just five months ago and especially a year ago. Am I stealing myself for protection? Because nobody strikes me that way right now? For the simplicity of it? Because it’s easier? For the writing? Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

All of which is to say there’s no harm in a letter, even from so many miles across the ocean. It’s a safe distance, that’s for sure, and a cost-free exploration. And it has nothing to do with promises or expectations or commitment. Just a connection—through words, I’ll note—and a genuine one at that.

  • Erin

    Katey–the William Carlos Williams poem is one of my favorites. 🙂 It sounds like everything is going well for you. Good luck with the grants and fellowships. Check my blog: I have good news!–Erin

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