I can see how carefully
you always fold your letters,
intricate layers of notebook paper,
like a note you might slip
to a friend in class,
hidden in cupped palms.

or push through the vents
of some boy’s locker,
too shy for anything more overt.

When I pick one up
at mail call
I feel it slide back and forth
in the flimsy blue and red striped airmail envelope,
a core of your words
and so much emptiness enclosed.

Sometimes I let myself imagine
that the empty space
still contains your air,
the envelope a lung
breathing out the same
uncomplicated, milky sweetness
I remember you from before,
when I could hold you.
You would reach up and stroke my earlobe
with your thumb
to lull yourself to sleep.

As I inhaled you
your fingers were as soft
as felt
as soft as the creases
of your letters
after my manifold readings—
soft, threatening severance,
but still holding