‘Letter to Galway From Tahoe’ by Heather Altfeld: ZYZZYVA No. 105, Winter Issue

by editor

Heather Altfeld’s first book, “The Disappearing Theatre,” won the 2015 Poets at Work Prize, judged by Stephen Dunn. Her poems have appeared in Narrative Magazine, Green Mountains Review, Poetry Northwest, Okey-Panky, among other publications, and in ZYZZYVA No. 92 and 99. Her poem “Letter to Galway from Tahoe” is in ZYZZVA No. 105.

Addressed to the late great poet Galway Kinnell, who directed the poetry program at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, the speaker of the poem finds herself seeking the ear of Kinnell, who has died only months ago. “I turn to you because I think you were one of the ones a little like me,// for whom terror and beauty were like the green languages of birds/ we longed to interpret, and felt, if we could not do so,/ that we had failed.” The following is the poem in its entirety.


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Houdini at 40


Handcuffed and head down in the tank two and a half minutes behind the black velvet curtain, deadbolts across the opening and nothing but the sound of water filling my ears, I discover myself on the verge of a possible mistake.  This is to say I meant for Anatole to leave me bound this time round; the longer the lapping occurs in my head, the closer I come to the governance of happiness.  I am truly singing in here, not drowning but singing, and if only you could hear me strumming in this little ocean of sleep, you would know […]

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